by Anne Montgomery and Elizabeth Blair
“Most American families and even health policy experts have never heard of the Aging Network (AN), a loosely organized, community-embedded aggregation of service organizations that provide elders with vital services such as housing repairs, food, and transportation. Yet this network is essential and fundamental to the health of our grandparents, parents, and, eventually, all of us as we grow older and need a bit of assistance to continue living in our communities. It is also about to be overwhelmed: A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office found that 83 percent of older adults who are likely to be food insecure did not receive meal services, and it estimated that up to 78 percent of older adults needing home-based care do not receive help with all of their difficulties.
“A major reason is that appropriations for the Older Americans Act (OAA), which funds the Aging Network, have declined for decades in inflation-adjusted terms. If current patterns hold, the needs of a rapidly growing population of older adults will soon overwhelm the capacity of the OAA to provide a meaningful level of support in communities across the country. This budgetary squeeze is not benign neglect; it has a real-world impact in the form of tens of thousands of seniors who, each year, unnecessarily wind up malnourished, dehydrated, unable to care for themselves, and, ultimately, cycling into and out of hospitals and other high-cost care settings.”
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