The Older Americans Act of 1965 (OAA) established a national network of federal, state, tribal and local agencies to plan and provide services that help elders to live independently in their homes and communities. This interconnected structure of agencies is known as the Aging Network.
Individuals 60 years of age and older are eligible for services under the OAA, and priority attention is given to those who are in greatest need. The OAA, as amended, created the primary vehicle for organizing, coordinating and providing community-based services and opportunities for older Americans and their families.
The goal of the Aging Network is to develop plans to meet the needs of elders at a national, state and local level to ensure they receive the care they need to remain securely in their homes and communities. Agencies within the Aging Network are tasked with implementing plans to ensure that elders can age with dignity and independence.
The National Aging Network is headed by the Administration on Aging (AoA), which was established pursuant to the OAA. The AoA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and it is headed by the assistant secretary for aging. The office of American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiians is also housed here. The network is supported by tens of thousands of service providers and volunteers and includes 56 State Agencies on Aging, 655 Area Agencies on Aging and more than 260 Title VI Native American aging programs.
Each state makes its own plan to show how it will deliver services to elders. Funding from the federal government is based upon the number of elders 60 or older in the state. There are 56 State Agencies on Aging, including all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Area Agencies on Aging were formed by dividing each state by geographic area. These Area Agencies on Aging provide important data to the state about trends and events at the local level. There are 655 across the country. The Area Agencies on Aging work closely with local service providers who provide care, make meals, drive vans and perform other vital tasks.
The need for programs that focused specifically on American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian elders gave rise to the creation of the Title VI Amendment to the OAA in 1978. Presently, 241 eligible tribal organizations receive grants in support of the delivery of home and community-based support services for American Indian and Alaska Native elders. The AoA makes grants to federally-recognized Indian tribes based on the number of elders who are 60 years of age and older. Title VI programs promote the delivery of supportive and nutrition services to American Indian and Alaska Native elders. These programs also provide support to caregivers of elders and grandparents raising grandchildren.
The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) is a member of both the Diverse Elders Coalition and the National Consortium on Aging Resources for Seniors’ Equity. Both entities work to provide education and outreach to the Aging Network and other stakeholders.
NICOA is grant funded to serve as a National Consortium on Aging Resources for Seniors’ Equity. The consortium was established by the Administration for Community Living in 2012 and is composed of five national minority aging organization partners, each of whom represents a major racial and ethnic minority elder population: the National Association for Hispanic Elderly, the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging and NICOA. The consortium works to decrease the prevalence of disparities among racial and ethnic minority and LGBTQ elders, their families and caregivers, by providing technical assistance to the Aging Network.
Together, the consortium body serves as an interconnected resource center for the Aging Network. They provide insights and techniques about effective outreach and meaningful involvement with a person-centered approach in serving diverse elders, aimed at providing guidance to the Aging Network. The consortium is developing a comprehensive body of culturally relevant technical assistance that can be tailored to meet the service delivery needs of Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, African American, LGBTQ and American Indian and Alaska Native elders.
NICOA is also a member of the Diverse Elders Coalition; partnering with four other national aging organizations — NAPCA, National Hispanic Council on Aging, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center — to advocate for policies and programs that improve aging in our communities as racially and ethnically diverse people. NICOA works in partnership with National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to ensure that the voices and concerns of elders are represented and supported at the national level. The NICOA board chairman serves as the chairman of the NCAI Elder Committee.
NICOA’s goal is to increase the Aging Network’s capabilities to reach and serve American Indian and Alaska Native elders and their family caregivers. To do this, NICOA, in partnership with the National Resource Center on Native American Aging, the American Association of Retired Persons and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and other key stakeholders will, during a three-year project, establish a Tribal Long-Term Services and Supports National Resource Center. The goal of this project is to empower tribal communities to develop and/or expand long-term services and supports for American Indian and Alaska Native elders and persons with disabilities in their local communities.