By Andrea Bonkosky
We kick off Older American’s Month with some history on a very important piece of legislation, the Older American’s Act (OAA). Enacted in 1965, the OAA was born from an era of social unrest and civil rights advocacy. The decade between 1960 and 1970 was a critical time in the civil rights movement, which included protests and mass demonstrations in hopes of bringing social change and improving the quality of all people, including older adults.
The creation of Medicare and Medicaid along with the passing of OAA were huge successes for those fighting to recognize the civil rights of the elderly. The passing of the OAA created an avenue for older adults 60 and over to access medical and social services such as home delivered and congregate meals, family caregiver support, in-home assistance, preventive health services, transportation, job training, protections from abuse, among other services.
In Broward County, the Aging and Disability Resource Center is responsible for allocating OAA funds to support social services in accordance with government guidelines. An example of an OAA funded program in our community is Meals on Wheels of South Florida– a local nonprofit agency providing approximately 1.2 million in-home and congregate meals to Broward County residents each year.
Today, many agencies devoted to older adult services would not be in existence without the enactment of this very important piece of legislation – and the bravery of those who advocated for the rights of older adults in America during a time of great social turmoil. This should serve as inspiration for continuing our advocacy efforts to increase and improve services for older adults and family caregivers living in our communities.