Op-Ed: "Landmark Legislation for Older Adults" by W. Mark Clark, PCOA

Landmark legislation for older adults

By W. Mark Clark


It is not news to anyone that in Washington, D.C., the legislative priorities of both parties are often subject to partisan gridlock. But the Older Americans Act has been one legislative priority with the potential to overcome political standoffs and benefit older adults across the country and here at home in Tucson and around Pima County. Last month Washington policymakers seized a rare opportunity for unanimity and passed a bipartisan Older Americans Act. This is a significant event that was signed into law by President Obama on April 19.

This law supports many services for older adults, including in-home services that help older adults age in place; congregate and home-delivered meals and community center programs; transportation programs that promote mobility and independence; training and respite care for family members caring for aging loved ones; and services to prevent and respond to elder abuse. The OAA is important to all of us, as it established the nutrition program and pays a significant portion of the cost of the meals served at 13 community centers in Pima County.

In addition to the lunches at local centers, the OAA in Pima County provides:

  • A nutritious, home-delivered meal for 800 people a day
  • A nurse to check blood pressure at the congregate meal community centers
  • Assistance with a bath, laundry,housecleaning andchanging bed sheets for 900 people
  • A break from daily assistance through respite service for family caregivers
  • Repair of home coolers and water leaks as well as the installationof ramps and bathroommodifications
  • Lifeline emergency alerts for people concerned about falling
  • Exercise programs at one of 10 neighborhood recreational centers
  • Staff at Pima Council on Aging to provide accurate information and solve problems
  • Staff at PCOA to meet with family caregivers to discuss care options
  • Advocates to visit residents of assisted living and skilled care facilities and help resolve issues
  • Transportation to the congregate mealsites Services that promote independence are especially important considering that recent reports estimate 90 percent of older adults want to grow older at home, and four out of five older adults believe their current home is where they will always live. OAA programs help make this possible. Last year, 92 percent of OAA home-delivered meal recipients said the program allowed them to continue living at home. Seventy-eight percent of the family caregivers served by OAA programs reported that these services allowed them to provide care longer than would have been possible otherwise.

These programs are increasingly critical as the population of older Americans grows. Every day 10,000 Americans turn 65. By 2030, one out of every five Americans will be age 65 or older. Yet federal funding for cost-effective, community- based OAA programs continues to stagnate and even decline.

We urge everyone to celebrate Older Americans Month during the month of May. Visit one of the 13 local community centers operated by Tucson Parks and Recreation, Tucson Medical Center or Pima County Natural Resources where hundreds of older adults participate in congregate meal programs every week, sign up for health promotion and wellness classes, or learn more about family caregiving. Become a PCOA Member and learn about ways to advocate to meet the needs of older adults in our communities and around the state.

And reach out to your Federal lawmakers to thank them for passing the act and request that they continue to support older adults in their districts and across the state by supporting appropriations in FY 2017 to meet the needs of the growing population of older adults who need assistance.

W. Mark Clark is the president & CEO at Pima Council on Aging, which serves Pima County's older adults and family caregivers. Contact him at mclark@pcoa.org and learn more about PCOA services at pcoa.org

W. Mark Clark

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 14:30