How To Locate Government Resources For Seniors
Some of the most invaluable resources for retirees and caregivers are the well-established government programs that are designed to meet a wide array of senior needs. Government agencies can serve as clearinghouses for much needed information and provide vital connections to programs and services. Most importantly, they are a place to start researching retirement living options regardless of income level or personal need. Information, referrals, recommendations, and a sympathetic ear are provided free of charge.
The Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965 created the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and a national network of agencies that promote and protect the health and well-being of older adults. Federal, state, and local agencies now work together to serve the needs of the diverse senior population. Amendments to the OAA provided grants to Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), giving them the resources to identify local needs and plan and fund local programs. Later changes to the act created the National Family Caregiver Support Program, which offers assistance to family caregivers.
The Department of Health & Human Services describes this comprehensive network as the National Aging Network. The Department notes that the Network “includes 56 State Agencies on Aging, 655 Area Agencies on Aging, 243 Native American aging programs, over 29,000 service providers, and thousands of volunteers.” It is the goal of the Network to offer opportunities and services that will allow older adults to “lead independent and dignified lives at home and in their communities.” Seven million Americans age 60 and over and over 325,000 caregivers are served by this network. The key components of the network include the Administration on Aging, the State Units of Aging, and the Area Agencies on Aging.
Administration on Aging (AoA)
As the leader of the Network, AoA works primarily to increase awareness among government agencies, organizations, and the general public in regards to the needs of the older American population. In addition to recommending policy and developing regulations, AoA is also responsible for providing grants to worthwhile projects. The AoA can be reached at www.aoa.gov or 202-619-0724.
In an effort to provide nationwide, information assistance to the general public, the AoA developed the Eldercare Locator in 1991. Eldercare Locator is a public service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with critical information about local senior services. Through a website and an 800 number, the program puts seniors and their families in touch with local AAAs and other community-based organizations that can provide assistance. With the number of senior resources growing in every community, this important service can eliminate hours of research by providing direct contact with trustworthy resources.
The information provided by the Eldercare Locator is available nationwide and is comprehensive. From assistance with meals and transportation to caregiver education and training, the Eldercare Locator can provide referrals and contact information for agencies and organizations that can help. To contact the Eldercare Locator, call 1-800-677-1116 or visit www.eldercare.gov.
State Units on Aging
The State Units on Aging (SUA) serve as the state arm of the AoA. SUAs coordinate services in their states by working with a variety of state agencies and other public and private organizations. The Units support community-based programs and services including legal services, long-term care ombudsmen programs, and many others. State Units also award grants to AAAs in order to help create community specific programs. See Local Resources for contact information.
Area Agencies on Aging
On the local level, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) coordinate and provide services to meet the needs and concerns of residents who are 60 years of age and older. The Department of Health and Human Services defines an AAA as a “public or private non-profit agency, designated by the state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at the regional and local levels.” It is important to note that AAAs go by a variety of different titles and may be organized in different ways.
Because of the many services and programs they offer, AAAs are one of the single most important resources for seniors. Available services vary by locale, and the services below are just a sampling of many of the services that are routinely offered by AAAs. In order to qualify for an assistance program, individuals may have to meet certain criteria. To find out more about the specific services that are available and how to obtain those services, contact the local AAA. See Local Resources for contact information.
Services Provided by Most AAAs:
Adult Day Care is available for individuals who need daytime supervision.
Caregiver Programs help family members who are caring for an older adult.
Case Management Services are conducted by professionals who can assess needs and arrange for services to encourage continued independence.
Elder Abuse Prevention Programs provide investigative services and intervention in cases of abuse.
Financial Assistance and benefit counseling is conducted by professionals.
Home Health Services provide needed care in the home environment.
Home Repair Programs help older adults complete needed repairs to avoid major problems.
Home Modification Programs provide renovations to make the home safer and more secure for individuals who choose to age in place.
Information and Referral Services offer a vital connection to available resources throughout the community.
Legal Assistance is available for individuals aged 60 and over with legal problems involving government benefits, tenant rights, and consumer issues.
Nutrition Services Programs provide home delivered meals to homebound individuals and congregate meals in specified locations for other seniors in the community.
Personal Care Services can help those with functional impairments with some of the activities of daily living.
Respite Care provides caregivers with a much needed break from the constant care and supervision of their elderly loved one.
Senior Centers offer educational, recreational, and social activities for older adults.
Telephone Reassurance provides regular contact and a safety check for homebound senior citizens.
Transportation Programs can provide door-to-door transit for individuals who do not have private transportation and/or cannot use public transportation.
Volunteer Programs connect interested older adults with fulfilling volunteer positions in the community.
Maryland Department of Aging
Area Agencies on Aging