Benefits, services, and assistance programs can be difficult to not only find but apply for. However, there is hope for seniors and caretakers. Many agencies are available locally under the umbrella network of Area Agencies on Aging. What is an Area Agency on Aging?
An Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is a nonprofit agency, either public or private, that the state creates to consider older adults’ needs by coordinating and offering services at the local and regional level.
If an organization is approved as an AAA, then it can use Area Agency on Aging in its name. However, the term “Area Agency on Aging” is a generic one, and local AAA organizations may be called other things. You might see names like City Office on Aging or Senior Concerns, but they can still be classified as AAAs.
AAAs are divided by responsibility and geographic areas that may include a single county, multi-county district, or city. These divisions are known as a planning and service area (PSA). They may also be categorized as a regional planning council or council of governments. Some AAAs are private, and others are nonprofit.
History of Area Agencies on Aging
The Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) were established under the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1973. The Older Americans Act Comprehensive Services Amendments authorized community grants for multipurpose senior centers under Title V. It also created the Community Service Employment grant program, which is administered by the Department of Labor for low-income persons over the age of 55.
The Older Americans Act (OAA) was passed in 1965 and gave grant authority to states for social services, community planning, research and development projects, and personnel training. This law also set up the Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer the grant programs. Today, the OAA oversees authorizing over 600 area agencies on aging. The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 reauthorized OAA programs, including AAAs, until 2024.
What is the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging?
You may also hear about the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging in association with your local AAA. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is a nonprofit membership group that represents 622 AAAs and 256 Title VI Native American aging programs at the federal level in Washington, DC.
The organization’s mission is to raise the visibility of AAAs and Title VI programs through training and educational events. It aims to develop, organize, and provide aging services in every community at the local level.
No matter what the name or focus of your local AAA organization, you’ll find a range of services designed to respond to the needs of those over 60 in your area. Many of these services provide support to make it possible for older adults to age in place.
The OAA allows AAAs flexibility in designing programs that are best suited for the local senior population. For this reason, not all AAAs provide the same services in all areas. Services may include, but are not limited to:
- Information and assistance
- Meals on Wheels
- Care planning
- Medicare and Social Security outreach and assistance
- Caregiver resources
- Home and community-based services
- Benefits assistance
- Elder rights
- Housing options
Once the needs specific to an area are defined, the local AAA develops an Area Plan, which is updated every few years. AAAs are most often used as advocates and information providers. One of the principal roles of AAAs is to provide local information and referral/assistance (I&R/A) to older adults. For this reason, all AAAs have websites or hotlines. You can also search local agencies by zip code using the Eldercare Locator website, a free website sponsored by the U.S. Administration for Community Living that is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. If you prefer, you can call 1-800-677-1116 for more information instead.
AAAs often work in conjunction with other organizations. Some of these partners include:
- Adult protective services
- Disability service organizations
- Transportation agencies
- Public housing authority
- Medicaid agencies
- Faith-based organizations
- Transportation venues
- Advocacy organizations
- Community health care providers
- Emergency preparedness agencies
- Local businesses
- Managed care/HMO networks
- Mental health organizations
Most AAAs work with local service providers to supply in-home and transportation services for seniors in the community. These local providers may be homemaker and chore service providers, home modifications done by local contractors, and meals through churches or Meals-on-Wheels programs. AAAs may also offer benefits or health insurance counseling, legal services, and programs designed to support family caregivers. The category of elder rights encompasses information and actions to prevent elder abuse and long-long-term care ombudsman programs.
More than 93 percent of AAAs offer evidence-based health and wellness programs. About 64 percent provide integrated care delivery systems. This approach combines delivery, organization, and management of diagnosis, treatment, care, and rehabilitation services. Just over 45 percent of AAAs furnish care transitions services. Another 70 percent are involved with improving community support through livable communities.
Each state determines how many service areas it will establish and how many AAAs are needed. There are currently 622 Area Agencies on Aging throughout the United States. You can find your Agency on Aging by visiting the Resources by State page.
Although Congress set up OAA to benefit the elderly with the most economic or social need, anyone 60 or older, as well as veterans and those with disabilities of any age, can be serviced by an AAA organization.
Future of AAAs
There will be more than 70 million individuals in the United States over 65 by 2030. Agencies that address the needs of the aging population will be even more in demand. Some of these needs are met through the AAAs’ home and community-based services.
Because of the change in demographics, the services that AAAs offer might change in the near future. Approximately 90 percent of seniors have expressed their desire to stay in their homes if possible. Since aging in place costs a fraction of nursing homes or skilled care facilities, it is in the states’ best interest to continue to provide these services through AAAs.