For nearly 65 years, we have made improving the lives of older Americans our passion and our mission.

Originally formed in response to concerns about rising health costs and mandatory retirement, our organization continues to champion issues and create innovative programs that reflect our core values and focus on making life better for older adults, especially those with limited income and resources.

Because of our efforts through more than a half century, older Americans are healthier and more fulfilled and are better able to age with dignity, independence, and financial security.

Early history

NCOA spurred change from the beginning. NCOA was already hard at work on behalf of older Americans before Congress ever enacted Medicare, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), or the Older Americans Act (OAA).

In fact, our efforts to raise awareness of critical issues facing older adults—particularly those with limited income and resources—helped lay the foundation for historic government programs and gave birth to national organizations that would have a profound effect on public policy affecting seniors.

  • 1950: The National Social Welfare Assembly forms the National Committee on Aging; renamed the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) in 1960.
  • 1952: NCOA’s Criteria for Retirement report is the outgrowth of a pioneering collaboration by business, labor, and government to explore alternatives to using age as the sole retirement criterion.
  • 1956: The Ford Foundation, recognizing the need for a strong, centralized source of information and consultation, makes its first grant to NCOA in a relationship that lasts until 1963.
  • 1957: NCOA’s Bridging the Gap between Existing Practices and Desirable Goals in Homes for the Aged and Nursing Homes report spurs action on legislation, licensing, and improvements in practice for nursing homes.
  • 1957: NCOA opens the Ollie Randall Library, the first and most comprehensive categorized library collection in the field of aging.
  • 1961: NCOA leaders form the American Association of Homes for the Aging.
  • 1962: An NCOA study on local meals programs lays the groundwork for the federal Meals on Wheels program.
  • 1965: Congress enacts Medicare, Medicaid, and the OAA. NCOA’s Operation Medicare Alert employs teams of older Americans to inform isolated elders about the new benefits available to them.
  • 1967: NCOA helps persuade Congress to enact the ADEA and, in 1986, eliminate mandatory retirement completely.
  • 1974: The Nixon Administration begins the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

Improving the lives of older Americans

At our core, we are an organization focused on developing, implementing, and disseminating programs that improve the lives of older Americans—particularly those with limited income and resources. We focus the bulk of our work in the areas of work and volunteering, healthy aging, benefits access, and ensuring older adults’ ability to remain independent.

Work & volunteering

Since our early work as a sponsor of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), we have identified and disseminated innovative programs that engage older adults as both paid employees and volunteers.

  • 1965: NCOA issues Foster Grandparents guidelines, creating the model for the existing federal program.
  • 1968: NCOA first contracts with the U.S. Labor Department to administer SCSEP, which has helped thousands of seniors with limited means find employment.
  • 1972: NCOA is instrumental in the passage and implementation of Title V of the OAA, which funds community service employment for older people.
  • 1986: NCOA launches Family Friends, an intergenerational program matching older volunteers with children with disabilities or chronic illnesses. NCOA also becomes a program sponsor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) program, which allows older workers to use their career skills and knowledge in jobs that support environmental projects.
  • 2003: NCOA begins both RespectAbility™ and Wisdom Works to develop new models of volunteering to help community organizations tap into boomers’ and seniors’ vast knowledge and experience to solve critical social problems.
  • 2007: NCOA’s MaturityWorks Alliance forms to support advocacy efforts on behalf of older workers.
  • 2008: NCOA forms a multi-sector partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and MetLife Foundation to expand training and technical assistance to projects nationwide serving grandparents raising grandchildren, parents raising children with special needs, and caregivers of frail elders.
  • 2011: Over 6,000 Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) participants provide 4 million hours of community service and place nearly 1,000 participants in jobs.

Healthy aging

We have a history of working to help older Americans live healthier and longer lives by increasing the quality and accessibility of health programming in communities nationwide.

  • 1990: NCOA organizes the Health Promotion Institute to promote physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being for older adults.
  • 1999: NCOA partners with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to link older adults with alcohol and mental health resources and later issues promising practices and the Get Connected toolkit.
  • 2002: NCOA launches a multi-year national initiative to promote best practices in physical activity programs for older adults.
  • 2003: NCOA forms the Center for Healthy Aging to serve as a change agent and national resource for community-based organizations that want to offer health promotion programs proven to enhance seniors’ quality of life. The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) chooses NCOA to be the national technical assistance center for its Evidence-Based Disease Prevention Initiative.
  • 2005: The Falls Free™ Initiative begins with release of the Falls Free National Action Plan, designed to help reduce the incidence of falls and fall-related injuries among older adults.
  • 2006: AoA, NCOA, and the Atlantic Philanthropies announce a public-private partnership to implement evidence-based programs nationwide.
  • 2007: Evidence-based prevention programs become available through aging services organizations in more than 30 states.
  • 2008: NCOA helps pass the Keeping Seniors Safe from Falls Act, which authorizes demonstration programs, research, and public education to prevent senior falls.
  • 2009: NCOA commissions a landmark survey of over 1,000 Americans aged 44+ with chronic conditions and holds “Pack Your Bag” medication management events at 782 senior centers, where 31,000 participants receive educational materials.
  • 2010: NCOA helps secure funding to expand the Stanford University Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; is named the national resource center; and launches the nation’s first and only online version of CDSMP.
  • 2012: Over 57,000 older adults participate in the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) nationwide and in Puerto Rico.

Access to benefits

Since our work educating seniors about Medicare in the 1960s, we have made improving seniors’ access to benefits a cornerstone of our mission.

  • 1967: Project Find uses teams of elders to help others living in poverty learn about the services available to them.
  • 1970: Project SHARE uses students to deliver low-cost services to older persons.
  • 2001: NCOA launches BenefitsCheckUp®, the nation’s most comprehensive online benefits screening tool.
  • 2004: NCOA forms the Access to Benefits Coalition to help seniors with limited means find prescription savings.
  • 2005: NCOA’s Benefits Enrollment Fund offers community-based organizations a financial incentive to enroll seniors affected by devastating hurricanes into benefits programs.
  • 2006: NCOA’s My Medicare Matters campaign touches more than 200,000 seniors and educates them about the new Medicare prescription drug coverage.
  • 2007: BenefitsCheckUp® reaches the two million mark, finding more than $6 billion in benefits for older adults.
  • 2008: Through the Access to Benefits Coalition that NCOA leads, nearly 255,000 people enroll in Medicare’s Extra Help and related benefits.
  • 2009: NCOA receives $6.97 million from the U.S. Administration on Aging to serve as the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment; funds and establishes 10 Benefits Enrollment Centers; and surpasses the goal of helping 311,000 low-income Medicare beneficiaries apply for Medicare Part D Extra Help and related benefits.
  • 2011: Ten more Benefits Enrollment Centers are funded and submit more than 84,000 applications for benefits worth $152 million.

Staying independent

True to our roots in promoting better access to quality long-term care, we continue our efforts to help seniors stay independent as long as possible.

  • 1995: NCOA launches Independent Choices, a program to enhance consumer direction in home- and community-based long-term care services for older adults and persons with disabilities.
  • 2005: Use Your Home to Stay at Home is published, showing the potential for seniors to use their home equity to pay for care and services that help them live at home longer.
  • 2007: NCOA develops an innovative counseling program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help senior homeowners examine their financial options to stay at home.
  • 2007: NCOA’s Support Our Seniors campaign helps persuade Congress to increase funding for OAA programs.
  • 2008: NCOA’s Reverse Mortgage Counseling Services (RMCS) Network is born.
  • 2010: Economic Security Service Centers launch in eight communities as part of a national demonstration. The Reverse Mortgage Counseling Toolkit website is launched and nearly 30,000 copies of NCOA’s Use Your Home to Stay at Home booklet are distributed to consumers. NISC celebrates 40 years of service to the nation’s 10,000+ senior centers.
  • 2011: NCOA launches a national demonstration to help organizations build their capacity to assist economically vulnerable older adults. More than 7,500 older homeowners receive traditional reverse mortgage counseling through the RMCS Network, and 59,700 copies of Use Your Home to Stay at Home™ are shared.
  • 2011: NCOA launches the new online Financial Interview Tool (FIT) and a customized version of BenefitsCheckUp®, which became a mandatory part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) home equity conversion mortgage counseling. Reverse mortgage counselors nationwide conduct 84,466 FIT reviews to help seniors better assess the suitability of these loans and 42,183 BenefitsCheckUp® screenings, potentially over $215 million in benefits that could supplement or replace a reverse mortgage.

Demystifying aging

Through our trail-blazing research and public awareness campaigns, we have been a leader and national voice to counter stereotypes about aging in America.

  • 1974: NCOA publishes its first Myths and Realities of Aging study—one of the nation’s first research efforts to break down stereotypes about older adults.
  • 1981: NCOA’s Aging in America study offers another snapshot of trends in aging.
  • 2000: American Perceptions of Aging is published based on the third Myths and Realities of Aging study.
  • 2005: The Open Road: America Looks at Aging, a film cosponsored by NCOA and the Atlantic Philanthropies, airs on public broadcasting stations nationwide, offering a closer look at the changing face of retirement across the country.
  • 2011: NCOA’s national grassroots advocacy campaign One Away launches to raise awareness about the economic struggles millions of older adults face and advance solutions.
  • 2012: The One Away campaign concludes, sparking 30,000 letters sent to Congress, from every state; more than 5,000 stories from seniors; 37 videos with 25,000 views; and significant media coverage.

The power of collaboration and networking

We believe that partners working together can accomplish far more than any one organization working alone.

  • 1970: NCOA forms the National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) to bring together leaders of senior centers nationwide to share best practices and develop a national accreditation program.
  • 1980: NCOA is a founding member of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a national coalition of 54 national aging organizations.
  • 1991: The National Interfaith Coalition on Aging (NICA) joins NCOA.
  • 1996: The National Coalition of Consumer Organizations (NCCO) forms.
  • 2001: NCOA partners with the American Society on Aging (ASA) to sponsor the first joint national conference for professionals in the field of aging.
  • 2001: The National Adult Day Services Association, which started in 1979, becomes an independent organization.
  • 2005: The White House Conference on Aging report reflects NCOA’s top priorities, as it has in its past four conferences.
  • 2008: The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act passes; it is the most significant improvement to Medicare for low-income beneficiaries in decades.
  • 2009: NCOA launches a national campaign called Elder Justice Now with WITNESS, a human rights organization, to end elder abuse.
  • 2011: NCOA leads a coalition of 30 national aging and disability organizations, known as the Friday Morning Collaborative (FMC), to advance long-term services and supports policy.
  • 2012: NCOA’s Flu + You flu prevention campaign with Sanofi Pasteur reaches millions of older adults and caregivers.

Other membership groups formed in the 1990s to represent particular interests in the field of aging include the National Institute of Senior Housing and National Institute on Community-Based Long-Term Care.


Throughout the years, NCOA has recognized those whose significant contributions have created a better world for older adults. Please meet our honored award recipients.

Leadership Awards

Our six leadership awards honor highly dedicated leaders and organizations.