2015—A Jubilee Year!

It came as no surprise when the federal Administration on Community Living designated "Get Into The Act" as the theme for Older Americans Month 2015, which we celebrate in May. The Older Americans Act (OAA) was passed 50 years ago and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 14, 1965.

The Older Americans Act of 1965 established the Aging Network as we know it today, with Area Agencies on Aging planning and providing for comprehensive services for older adults. You've probably heard of Meals on Wheels (funded by the Older Americans Act). You may have used Senior Information & Assistance—now called Community Living Connections (also Older Americans Act). Other OAA-funded services that help keep older adults healthy and independent include senior centers, caregiver support, meal site transportation, job training, and health promotion. See Strategic Initiatives on www.agingkingcounty.org.

As we approach the 50-year jubilee, it's more important than ever to advocate for the reauthorization of the OAA, which expired at the end of 2011. The Act was last reauthorized in 2006, and its authorization expired at the end of FY 2011. That's why Aging Network organizations are asking people to urge members of Congress to reauthorize and invest in the Older Americans Act. Even the 2015 White House Conference on Aging webpage emphasizes that Congress has not reauthorized the Older Americans Act.

Can you imagine where we'd be without the Older Americans Act—without home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, in-home assistance, preventive health services, transportation, job training, protection from abuse, and other services it funds? Millions of older adults in our community remain healthy, economically secure, and independent in their homes and communities because of that legislation.

Please consider contacting your own Congressional representatives. For names and contact information, see pages 33–35 of the League of Women Voters They Represent You booklet. For other tools and tips on effective advocacy, visit the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services Toolkit.

Other Important Celebrations

  • Social Security turns 80 on August 14, 2015. The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Part of the New Deal, the Act provides benefits to retirees and the unemployed as well as a lump-sum benefit at death. For information about Social Security today, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
  • Medicare and Medicaid were passed into law 50 years ago—on July 30, 1965. At the bill-signing ceremony, President Johnson enrolled President Harry Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary and presented him with the first Medicare card. For information about Medicare today, visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law 25 years ago—on July 26, 1990, when it was signed by President George H. W. Bush. Congress intended the law "to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities." For information about the ADA today, visit www.ada.gov. (Note: A special 25th anniversary website was established at www.adaanniversary.org.)
  • The Affordable Care Act became law five years ago—signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. The Act expanded Medicare benefits (for instance, more preventive services) as well as savings (lower premiums and lower-cost prescription drugs), and has ensured greater access to health care services at all ages. For more information, visit www.hhs.gov/healthcare.

We don't need to wait until each anniversary date to celebrate these milestones that so many people take for granted today. We can't afford to let these entitlements slip away. Get into the Act!

Contributor Ava Frisinger chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. She previously served for 16 years as Mayor of Issaquah and as a City Councilmember, where she crafted and implemented human services policies for seniors and special populations. Other key issues include affordable housing, public health, transportation, and the environment, with ongoing focus on special needs populations. Ava welcomes input from readers via e-mail (advisorychair@agewisekingcounty.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council, when they occur. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.

The Aging Network in Seattle-King County

Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County, invite you to attend the premiere screening of a documentary about the Aging Network.

Thursday, February 19, 2015
10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Save the date!

Details forthcoming in the February issue of AgeWise King County