The Older American Act (OAA) was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 14, 1965. The purpose of the law was to provide for the needs of an increasing number of older persons in the United States. The specific objectives of the law included strategies to maintain the dignity and welfare of older individuals. To accomplish this, the law created a vehicle for organizing, coordinating, and providing these services and opportunities not only for the older individuals themselves, but also for their families (Administration on Aging, 2011).
In 2011, Congress is considering reauthorization and some amendments to the OAA to take effect in 2012. Specifically, three mechanisms are under scrutiny to be involved in this process: Administration on Aging (AoA)-convened Listening Forums; OAA Reauthorization Input Events; and Direct Input via the AoA Website or Mail.
In order to carry out the mandates of the OAA legislation in a practical sense, the AoA has been called into existence. The vision of the agency is to ensure that the aging services network continue at the State, Territory local and Tribal levels. Funding is therefore being collected for lower-cost, non-medical services. The ultimate aim of these services is to help older people maintain their independence for as long as possible after retirement. The mission of the agency is then also to provide comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective services that serve as support for older people who wish to remain independent in their homes and communities.
The main impact of the law has therefore been a greater awareness among citizens of the needs and requirements of older people. Furthermore official agencies such as the Administration on Aging and others have been called into existence to help create a platform for bringing the mandates of the law into existence.
This is also the case with the Sunrise Foster Senior Community. Its existence ensures that older people are provided with the care and facilities to help them have a happy and fulfilled life during their remaining years. The agency therefore promotes wellness for senior citizens as well as for adults with disabilities. Educational and recreational activities are included with this, as well as new efforts such as senior employment programs for those with low incomes. As such, the agency exists to create a platform that supports senior citizens and their effort to remain contributing members of society.
In short, the purpose of the law is therefore to ensure the continued fulfilment in life experienced by older human beings. This is based upon the right of all human beings to pursue happiness and peace in their lives.
Several peer-reviewed sources are available for research the law. On of these is "From the great society to the aging society - 25 years of the Older Americans Act by Robert H. Binstock (1991). The article considers the climate within which the law was enacted, comparing it to the changing views and social concerns over the decades that follow. The purpose and rationale of the law changed according to the decades of its existence, which is a further reason for the reauthorization efforts in 2011.
During 1965, for example, the OAA came into law to act as a grant-in-aid program for older Americans. However, few people or businesses were aware of the many complex issues created by aging and the issues faced by those who faced longer lives. One of the reasons for bringing the law into action was therefore to raise awareness of these issues. In addition, this awareness created a platform for creating both tangible and non-tangible agencies and services for older people in the country.
What this means of the day-to-day operations in the Sunrise Foster Senior Community is that the agency does not operate in isolation. It is supported by the law and by a network of other agencies to provide the services needed by the older people at the Community. Some agencies, for example, provides food, while others provide exercise and education programs. All these are created in order to provide Community members with the opportunity to make their lives fulfilling and meaningful.
As a parent agency to identify the needs and challenges of the older population, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides very good resources. The Administration on Aging (AoA) then also serves as a practical vehicle for administering the law in a more practical and coordinated sense. Hence, Sunrise has the opportunity to make use of these services in order to enhance its own abilities to work with its members in an effective way. This can be said to be a secondary mandate of the law; creating agencies for the coordination and provision of services to older citizens.
According to Binstock (1991), however, much has changed since the 1960s, especially in the paradigms surrounding older citizens. This includes the general social view of older people and aging as well as the financial concerns surrounding the continuation of services for this sector of society. Federal funding for the OAA, for example, has not grown significantly, while policy concerns have become hostile towards older people.
In the decades before the 1960s, for example, the general views surrounding older people were that they were not only frail and dependent, but also deserving of government help. Hence, age rather than actual need drove the old age benefit programs such as a tax and price subsidies. The government took these responsibilities to apply to all older citizens, regardless of their remaining strength, employment status, or other differentiating factors usually applied when determining whether citizens qualify for government assistance.
The political context of unlimited assistance to all older people has however, in practice, proved unsustainable. The government has provided for too little funding and resources to accommodate the many assistance programs it called into existence under the OAA. The author refers to this as an "incredible gap" between the goals of the legislation and the limited funding and authority made available to reach these goals. This has created a generally negative opinion of laws that create a platform of extensive care for older people. Basically, this negativity is not so much targeted against older people themselves.
During 1965, arguments for the legislation held that no discriminatory or stigmatizing factors should be inherent in the legislation. For this reason, a global aid system was implemented that would include all older people, regardless of health or income status. Furthermore, the concern was that a consideration of income status would stigmatize the program as legislation for the poor. A strong argument against the legislation, however, is funding. There simply was not enough funding available to administer all the ambitious initial goals of the legislation.
The current debt crisis of the United States and the economic crisis worldwide are somewhat indicative of this apparent inability to balance funding with need. Furthermore, the provision of funding and assistance to all older people, regardless of influencing factors, is an unsustainable position.
Today, one might argue that much has changed in terms of the general perception of older people. Many of them continue working long after their retirement age, simply because they are able to do so or because they want to. Those who leave their jobs at retirement age or are forced to do so often start businesses. The social perception of older people is also no longer one of general frailty and helplessness. Many more people reach a much higher age than 20 or 40 years ago. Hence, these factors should be taken into account when considering legislation to assist older people. Regardless of possible stigmatization, it has become economically unviable to ignore the fact that there is a great difference between able-bodied, independent older people and those who are as frail as the legislation implies.