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Administration on Aging

Aoa In The Twenty-first Century

Despite the enormity of its charge and the relative paucity of its resources, the Administration on Aging has overseen many developments since its creation in 1965. As the agency principally responsible for implementation of the OAA, it helped bring into existence and nurture today's network for the aging. This is no small accomplishment; indeed, advocates for children have argued that there should be a "children's network" analogous to the one that AoA has created for the aging (Grayson and Guyer). Social services funded at a level of nearly $1 billion are delivered through these auspices every year; federal and state agencies in health and mental health care, long-term care, nutrition, and transportation have been made more responsive to elderly persons' concerns because of network activity that AoA helped bring about.

There have been many relatively minor changes in AoA's programmatic emphasis, but program administration and client advocacy remain the principal foci. The balance between these two has, however, changed over the years. The network agencies at the state and substate regional levels are well established and are able to operate quite well on their own, relatively independent of AoA. This reality should be understood as a compliment to AoA, not a critique of it. The founding spirit of the OAA was for these agencies to become self-sustaining and, in turn, influence other agencies and organizations serving the elderly at the state level. The success of AoA and of the agencies in attaining this status has allowed AoA to place relatively greater emphasis on its activities at the federal level and on promoting the needs of older people that extend well beyond the social services boundaries of the OAA delivery structure. Of the six goals set forth by AoA in its most recent strategic plan, most call on AoA to promote new ideas and awareness— "gerontologize America," "promote crosscutting initiatives," "build a partnership between the aging and disability communities," and "address the diversity and special needs of the aged."

AoA remains a relatively small federal agency, and the national network it helped create no longer requires the levels of support and advice from AoA that it once did. That frees the assistant secretary for aging and agency staff to promote the needs of elderly people at the federal level and through activities that extend beyond the service programs of the network for the aging. Because resources available to AoA remain scarce, major changes in these arenas will be difficult to bring about. But the role is an important one, and AoA can devote relatively more energy to it than has been historically the case.



BINSTOCK, R. B. "Interest Group Liberalism and the Politics of Aging." Gerontologist 12 (1972): 265–280.

GELFAND, D. The Aging Network, 5th ed. New York: Springer, 1999.

GRAYSON, H., and GUYER, B. "Rethinking the Organization of Children's Programs: Lessons from the Elderly." Milbank Quarterly 73, no. 4 (1995): 565–598.

HUDSON, R. B. "Client Politics and Federalism: The Case of the Older Americans Act" Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, New Orleans, 1973.

KOFF, T., and PARK, R. Aging and Public Policy: Bonding the Generations. Amityville, N.Y.: Baywood (USGAO). 1999.

U.S. General Accounting Office (USGAO). Administration on Aging: More Federal Action Needed to Promote Service Coordination for the Elderly. GAO/HRD 91-45. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991.

U.S. General Accounting Office (USGAO). Administration on Aging: Harmonizing Growing Demands and Shrinking Resources. GAO/PEMD 92-7. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Administration on Aging - History And Development Of Aoa, Organizational Challenges To Aoa, Aoa In The Twenty-first Century