Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Older Americans Act Reauthorization

The Older Americans Act is up for reauthorization in 2005. The Act is the organic legislation for the aging network in each state, the web of services to seniors that includes the county senior providers, the Area Agencies on Aging, and each state's unit on aging such as the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services. The last time this important piece of legislation sunsetted it took 5 years to get it reauthorized (completed in 2000). There was a real danger of losing legal as a priority service under the Act last time, so this time we are marshalling our forces early to keep legal services and advocacy a vital part of aging services nationwide.

Last time the Act was reauthorized a new section was created for serving caregivers. Recently at the National Aging and Law Conference in DC there was discussion of what, if any, new things might be created in the reauthorization process. Most of the participating aging and law professionals concluded that the Act will not be high on most Congresspeople's and Senators' agendas because of the dominating issues of war and the economy. However, some surmised that perhaps legislators will create a new area dealing specifically with preparation for the demographic slug of aging Baby Boomers.

The Center for Social Gerontology will continue to keep up-to-date news on the reauthorization process, including a focus on legal services, on their website, as they did during the last reauthorization. Click on the Law and Aging tab at the bottom of their homepage to get to those pages.

One way people can participate in the reauthorization process is to contact their federal legislators. There are a variety of ways to connect with Senators and Congresspeople, and electronic communications are available to anyone with internet access. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's website provides easy access to folks who want to identify their legislators and contact them.


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