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Ensure Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act

Passage of the Older Americans Act could help address the emotional, physical, and financial hardships of our seniors.

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Poverty rates increased for children and working-age adults, but they actually declined for seniors age 65 and older. But as we focus on combating poverty among children and their families we must not neglect our rapidly growing aging population and its unique challenges.

The decrease in the senior poverty rate belies the fact that far too many of our nation’s elderly scrape by near, just at, or below the poverty line after a lifetime of hard work in the labor market, raising children, and managing families.

Challenges to the economic well-being of seniors are made worse by a number of factors including lower retirement savings, record unemployment, high health care costs, and a lackluster housing market. Low-income seniors of color, particularly women, have an even harder time getting by.

State budget crises have drained dollars from important social programs that provide essential services and support for seniors, adding to their emotional, physical, and financial hardships.

The Older Americans Act, adopted in 1965, funds many important social programs that include senior meals, transportation services, home-based care, health promotion, disease prevention activities, and wellness and recreation programs. Federal funding over the last several years has not kept pace with inflation, eroding many of the act’s programs’ budgets and service capacity.

The act is up for reauthorization in 2011. Policymakers should ensure that it has the necessary resources in the years ahead to serve a rapidly growing senior population.

Our social safety-net programs have done much to improve the economic status of aging Americans, but far too many seniors remain economically vulnerable. It is clear that policymakers must promote comprehensive efforts and reforms that support all working-age adults and help them maintain economically stable households throughout their lifetimes.

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