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On Jan. 26, 2012, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA).

Sen. Sanders is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, which is charged with leading efforts on reauthorization.

S. 2037, the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2012, reflects the Senator’s top priorities, which mirror several of those of NCOA.

NCOA’s approach to reauthorization has largely been focused on updating the OAA with lessons learned about innovative programs and strategies, and strengthening research, demonstration, and technical assistance that will support development and adoption of evidence-based approaches for health promotion and economic security for seniors.

As noted in our endorsement of the bill, NCOA priorities that were included in S. 2037 include:

  1. Defining economic security and establishing it as a goal of the OAA
  2. Investing in modern senior centers, including through a senior center modernization fund
  3. Requiring that health promotion and disease prevention initiatives be evidence-based
  4. Enhancing SCSEP and exploring a path to transfer the program to the Administration on Aging (AoA)
  5. Updating the definition of economic need and the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E)

Reauthorization provides the opportunity to revisit and update the legislation; however, there is a common belief that the most significant reason the Older Americans Act has not reached its full potential has been due to a lack of resources. To address this, the legislation calls for sizable increases in four key areas of the OAA:

  • Supportive services
  • Senior nutrition
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)