The Older Americans Act 50th Anniversary

By Karen Cifala

This month marks the 50th anniversary of The Older Americans Act (OAA), passed in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reform. With the intent of promoting the dignity of seniors, this Act’s funding is distributed to 56 state agencies, over 200 tribal organizations, two native Hawaiian organizations, more than 600 area agencies, and 20,000 local services providers.

This was the first federal initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for our older citizens. It created the National Aging Network, comprising the Administration on Aging at the federal level and Area Agencies on Aging as well as State Units on Aging at the state level. This law currently provides millions of older adults with services like Meals on Wheels and other nutrition services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention, and caregiver support. Our local agency is called the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA). It serves Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, Warren, and Winchester City.

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program was established under the OAA as a “vulnerable elder rights protection” program and investigates and resolves complaints made by or on behalf of institutionalized populations such as nursing home residents and the funds are allocated based on the state’s proportion of residents over the age of 60. Locally, our Ombudsman Program contact is Susie Grubb. She covers the entire Shenandoah Area from Clarke to Page counties and can assist in resolving complaints and mediating between residents’ families. She is a strong proponent of promoting community involvement and educating consumers about resident’s rights, and good care practices also fall under her purview.

Our Place Respite Centers are yet another service through SAAA that provides respite for individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementia and gives caregivers needed assistance, support, and resources. To use this service call the SAAA and they will conduct an initial assessment to determine eligibility. There is a sliding fee scale of $10–$25. Clarke County’s Our Place center is located at Grace Episcopal Church in Berryville. Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am–3pm.

WellTran, a transportation service through SAAA also provides transportation for qualified seniors. Rides must be prearranged and are fee-based as well.

The Medicare Café is an irreplaceable resource for our community. This program is designed for people eligible for Medicare or those who are new and have questions. This is a “no strings attached,” unbiased, free personal resource and is a great way to get help understanding Medicare benefits and choices, as well as where to get the best rates for your prescriptions. Locally you can attend monthly sessions held from 10am to 4pm at the VFW Post 9760 in Berryville; May 28, June 18, Sept.24, Oct 15, and Nov 19.

Clarke County Active Living Center, under the auspices of SAAA, is located right next to the Clarke County Recreation Center in Berryville. There you can get a noonday lunch onsite, or, if you are a homebound senior and qualify, they will deliver your meal to you. The state-approved Meals on Wheels program is available to seniors age 60 or older who are residents of the county, are restricted or confined to their home, and have no one to prepare a meal. Priority is given to seniors with the greatest economic and social need. This Senior Center also holds daily events such as exercise and a variety of musical entertainment, health, and educational programs as well as special trips and picnics. There is no fee to join and there is no income restriction, but you must register as a member to participate.

Recently The Older Americans Act has been plagued with modest resources to support its mission. Federal funding has not kept pace with the rapid growth of the aging boomer generation. Our seniors may face wait periods for many of these critical services in most states. It has been determined that in order for OAA to even catch up with the population growth, its funding would have to be increased at least 12 percent each year for many years. Whichever side of the political aisle you stand on, we can all agree that these types of federal and state program will and do promote a healthier life and improve the quality of life for many of our older citizens. One in five older adults receives these much needed services, and there is a disproportionate number of our seniors who live below the poverty line; most likely female, twice as likely to live in a rural area, and more likely to live alone.

It’s important to remember and appreciate our senior contributions to our country and our families. Every President since JFK has recognized the importance of showing respect and appreciation to seniors who have given so much to our nation. As spoken this year by President Obama during his proclamation outlining the importance of this celebration,

“Drivers of enormous change, they have enriched our Nation and bravely defended the values we cherish; they have broken down barriers and blazed pathways for all who followed; and they have raised us all and endowed us with a freer, fairer, more equal world. After a lifetime of contributions, they have earned our care and respect, and they deserve to live out their years with dignity and independence.”


You can reach all of these great resources through Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA), email: or call 540-635-7141 or call them direct.

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program: Susie Grubb (540)551-5635

Our Place Respite Center; Call SAAA to make an appointment or (540)247-6309

WellTran; To schedule a ride call (800)883-4122 ext. 306

Medicare Café; Call SAAA (540)635-7141 ext. 1015

Clarke County Active Living Center; Bonnie Dodson, ALC Director at (540)955-3572

Karen Cifala is a Senior Real Estate Specialist with Remax Roots in Berryville. She specializes in working with our older generation and would love to hear from you. To reach her you can call her at (303) 817-9374 or email her at