As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA), we are reminded of our country’s commitment to our seniors. The Older Americans Act provides essential social and nutrition services to millions of individuals—helping them live in dignity and remain connected to their communities. Despite anincreasing demand for OAA programs, however, the Older Americans Act is long overdue for reauthorization.

Its authorization expired in 2011, and although there has been substantial progress to reauthorize the law in the Senate—where a bipartisan version unanimously passed the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee this year—the law remains stuck in limbo. If we are serious about ensuring the wellbeing of older Americans, we must take concrete action to reauthorize this landmark law.


America’s seniors deserve to enjoy independent, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Congress passed the OAA in 1965 as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” It was a year of opportunity for America’s middle and lower class: Medicare and Medicaid were established and Johnson demanded that the federal government formally address the lack of community social services for seniors. With the passage of OAA, states began to receive grants for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging. The Act has evolved and been amended more than ten times since 1965, and it has been expanded to cover nutrition services, long-term care (LTC) ombudsmen, and family caregiver support. Today, OAA funds many of the programs—like Meals on Wheels—near and dear to millions of families across the country.

But these programs are already stretched thin, and there is a major demographic transition taking place in America that will place additional strain on OAA programs. A recent report from the Pew Research Center on older Americans revealed that the elderly population within the United States is expected to nearly double by 2050. And not only is the population of seniors increasing, it is also becoming increasingly diverse. Without meaningful investments in services for seniors—and without important updates to OAA programs to help them reach all groups of seniors—older Americans, hard-working families, and our health care system will be burdened.

Making the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act a priority and investing in these programs will help more seniors lead healthier lives; it will also strengthen the economy and avoid imposing insurmountable costs on many families. By supporting older Americans in their homes, we can keep costs down and delay the need for more expensive long-term care. Additionally, many Americans of all ages and backgrounds currently take on the demanding task of caring for their older family members. These caregivers play a critical role, and OAA reauthorization will give these caregivers continued access to respite support programs.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have historically come together to support OAA programs, and it is time to continue that tradition so America’s seniors have the resources that they need to live satisfying and healthy lives. On its 50th anniversary, we are making its reauthorization a priority.  Hubert Humphrey, who served as vice president under Johnson, once said, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped."

We are committed to seeing the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act through, and making it clear to all America’s seniors that our government passes that moral test.

Scott has represented Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District since 1993. Bonamici has represented Oregon’s 1st Congressional District since 2012. Both sit on the Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Older Americans Act.