Heidi M. Pascual*
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* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
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Paul Kusuda
May is Older Americans
happiness. Involved in all this is consideration of the dilemma facing all public officials of developing acceptable
equilibriums of taxes and spending; military and education/welfare/level of living; current operations costs and long-
term maintenance of infrastructure demands.  A viable solution must be found despite partisan political stances that
now exist.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is facing reauthorization, and the amount of funds needed to be appropriated for its
various programs is presently in the decision phase. Its objectives include providing an adequate retirement income;
obtaining and maintaining suitable affordable housing for the elderly; opportunity for employment; community
services; and enabling freedom, independence, and protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It is the only
federal supportive service program specifically to improve the lives of older people. It provides for establishing and
operating nutrition programs, disease prevention and health promotion, caregiver support, and encouraging
application of research and evidence-based programs.

On March 4, 2014, President Barack Obama released his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal that included many
program cuts even though it rejected earlier ones to

limit Social Security cost-of-living adjustments. It does advocate for additional funds for elder justice, Alzheimer’s
disease research, and senior housing; however, it suggests shifting costs to Medicare, not a move many consider
desirable. OAA programs will not get increased fund appropriations; many will be continued at past levels; however,
many organizational changes have been suggested with cuts in funding. The Senior Community Service
Employment Program will be moved from the U.S. Department of Labor to the Department of Health and Human
Services and have a funding cut of $54 million from its current level of $380 million. The Community Services Block
Grant Program (that supports local economic security services) will suffer a $234 million cut in the face of an almost
$40 million increase recently provided by Congress.

The President’s budget proposal includes a large reorganization of Senior Corps.  The Foster Grandparent Program
and Senior Companion Program will be made part of the larger organization AmeriCorps. Retired and Senior
Volunteer Program (RSVP) grants would be made under the Volunteer Generation Fund; however, they would have
two-thirds less funding. The over-all funding for Senior Corps will be cut by at least $56 million.

Such drastic decreases must be denied; both RSVP and Foster Grandparent Program should be returned to its
former organizational location. Appropriations for both programs should be increased rather than decreased.
Persons receiving services under both programs prosper from them; those who provide services gain considerably,
not only in self-satisfaction or self-esteem but also positive bio-feedback from being involved in socialization, a
double benefit.  Isn’t that getting the biggest bang for the buck?

The negative impact of the President Obama’s Budget Proposal will be immense and will affect a growing number
and proportion of America’s population. Our nation’s demographics forecast a major growth in the population
targeted by OAA, those 60 years of age and older. Population statistics report the obviously-seen phenomenon of
older folk and those with a variety of disabilities. Americans are living longer, much longer than actuarial earlier
estimates as to life span. Not too long ago, national attention was drawn to persons who became a hundred  
years old. Now, that mark is so common that it is less reported though individually celebrated. Many 60- and 70-year
olds do not consider themselves “old.” When physical, mental, and emotional health are personally accepted, their
self-image is of a younger age. However, their numbers grow. As the years go on, they will age into the group now-
called the “frail elderly,” that is the group 85 years of age and older, many of whom have a variety of frailties. As the
proportion of retired Americans increases, computations for retirement benefits, including Social Security, must
address the financial impact of here-to-for underestimated longevity. Need for care-giving services and specialized
housing will increase.  OAA programs will be increasingly called upon to meet anticipated burgeoning needs. Our
President and our Congress need to hear from the elderly and others currently involved in and who in the near future
will be involved in as providers or recipients of the variety of services provided through the Older Americans Act. Be an
active advocate! Make your voice heard! Don’t leave it for later! Don’t wait for others to contact the President and
individual members of Congress. The time to act is now!
By Paul H. Kusuda

In April 1963, when President John F. Kennedy designated May as “Senior Citizens Month,” only
about 17 million Americans were 65 years of age or older, about a third being in poverty. Then,
on July 14, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act in recognition
of the lack of needed resources in the field of aging. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter changed
the designation to “Older Americans Month.”

Advocates for America’s elderly population have unsuccessfully tried to raise appropriation
funding levels. Unfortunately, Congress has moved to maintain current levels or even to
decrease them. It is now actively engaged in minimizing federal budget allocations for
programs aimed to keep or increase the populace’s potentials for life, liberty, and the pursuit of