ACL Proposes Update to Older Americans Act Program Regulations

June 15, 2023

The U.S. Administration for Community Living is seeking input on proposed updates to the regulations for its Older Americans Act (OAA) programs. The proposed rule is the first substantial update to most OAA program regulations in 35 years.

The world has changed dramatically since the current OAA regulations were established. The population of older adults has nearly doubled, and older adults are living longer than ever before. Their expectations for aging are different from those of earlier generations. Increased understanding of the impact of the social determinants of health is reshaping health care, as non-medical services that help people avoid hospitalization and institutional care – like those provided through OAA programs – are increasingly being incorporated into health care service delivery models. In addition, the OAA has been amended by Congress seven times since 1988.  The proposed rule aims to align regulations to the current statute and reflect the needs of today’s older adults.

“Like the Inflation Reduction Act, which has cut health care costs for millions of older adults, and the steps we have taken to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, the update to the Older Americans Act regulations reflects President Biden’s commitment to supporting the health and well-being of older adults,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “By strengthening the stability and sustainability of Older Americans Act programs and promoting equitable access to its services, the proposed rule will help ensure that older people, particularly those in greatest need, have the support they need to live independently and age with dignity.”

“The overwhelming majority of older adults want to live in the community as they age, and almost 95 percent of them do. For many, services provided through the Older Americans Act -- such as rides to doctors’ appointments, nutritious meals, in-home services, and support to family caregivers -- make this possible,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Aging and ACL Administrator Alison Barkoff. “This proposed rule will strengthen the system of support that allows millions of older adults to stay in their own homes. With our population aging rapidly, and nearly three out of four people needing assistance to age in place, this is more important than ever.”

The proposed rule clarifies requirements across many programs and establishes regulations for those that have been authorized by the OAA since the last update of the rule, such as ACL’s state and tribal caregiver support programs. It also addresses issues that have emerged over the last three decades, such as a need for clarification of requirements and flexibilities for serving older adults during national disasters and other emergencies. It is intended to better support the national aging services network that delivers OAA services and improve program implementation, with an ultimate goal of better serving older adults.

The proposed rule is the culmination of many years of engagement with the national aging network. It also reflects input received through a formal request for information and a series of listening sessions, including formal tribal consultations and other engagement with tribal grantees.

Instructions for submitting comments can be found on ACL’s website and in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking posted on the Federal Register website today. Comments may be submitted starting tomorrow, June 16, and must be received by 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday, August 15. An informational webinar  will be held on Thursday, June 22 at 12:30 p.m. (Eastern).

About the Older Americans Act

First passed in 1965 and last reauthorized on March 25, 2020, the OAA authorizes a wide range of programs and services that help older adults age in place. These services include home-delivered and congregate meals, support for family caregivers, preventive health services, personal and home care services, transportation, legal assistance, elder abuse prevention, and so much more. In addition, the OAA provides ombudsman services for people who live in long-term care facilities.

Through the aging services network, the OAA has helped older adults remain active and engaged in their communities, to the great benefit of all. Because of the OAA, neighborhoods and organizations across the country are able to continue to draw upon the wealth of knowledge that comes only with life experience.

Most provisions of the OAA are administered by the Administration for Community Living. (The U.S. Department of Labor administers the OAA’s Senior Community Services Employment Program, which is not covered by this proposed rule.)

About the Administration for Community Living

The Administration for Community Living was created around the fundamental principle that older adults and people of all ages with disabilities should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities. By funding services and supports provided primarily by networks of community-based organizations, and with investments in research, education, and innovation, ACL helps make this principle a reality for millions of Americans.

HHS has the release.

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