This month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will introduce legislation to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA), one of the most crucial sources of federal support for older adults. The OAA provides essential programs ranging from the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), to services to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults, to meal and nutrition services for older persons.
The reauthorization also includes several key amendments. For example, the bill establishes economic security as a goal of the OAA and includes a clarification of the formal definition of “economic security” to encompass the income necessary to pay for housing, health care, transportation, food, long-term care and goods and services to meet other basic needs. According to WOW’s Elder Economic Security Standard Index, average annual Social Security income only provides an older woman renter with 61% of the income necessary to establish economic security. The OAA’s emphasis on expanding and ensuring economic security is a key component in helping to compensate for this deficiency.
Furthermore, the OAA will redefine the term “economic need” to 200% of the federal poverty level, an especially important distinction in light of the fact that one in five older Americans today survives on an average income of only $7,500 per year.
Overall, the amendments and reauthorization of the OAA is a major stride for older Americans and provides an opportunity to improve existing programs in the framework of economic security. By addressing the growing need of support programs for older Americans through job training, legal assistance, nutritional advising and long-term care coordination services, the bill functions as one of the most comprehensive government-sponsored forms of assistance to seniors.
Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern