Background Paper

The Aging Services Network: Accomplishments and Challenges in Serving a Growing Elderly Population
April 11, 2008


Carol V. O'Shaughnessy, MA


In 1965, Congress enacted the Older Americans Act, establishing a federal agency and state agencies to address the social services needs of the aging population. The mission of the Older Americans Act is broad: to help older people maintain maximum independence in their homes and communities and to promote a continuum of care for the vulnerable elderly. In successive amendments, the Act created area agencies on aging and a host of service programs. The “aging services network,” broadly described, refers to the agencies, programs, and activities that are sponsored by the Older Americans Act. The Act’s funding for services is supplemented by other federal funds, such as Medicaid, as well as state and local funds. As the number of older people increases with the aging of the baby boom population, the need for a wide spectrum of services is expected to place pressure on aging services. Whether the aging services network will be able to sustain its momentum and fully realize its potential will depend on its ability to attract and retain additional resources.

Related Materials

Please see the updated version of this paper: "The Aging Services Network: Serving a Vulnerable and Growing Elderly Population in Tough Economic Times" (Background Paper No. 83, December 13, 2011).

See also "Older Americans Act of 1965: Programs and Funding" (The Basics, February 23, 2012) and the entry for a Forum session on supporting family caregivers (September 2007).

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