The federal Older Americans Act is up for reauthorization this fall. The Area Agencies on Aging were created under this federal act to manage the services mandated by the Act at a local level. Ours, Region X, covers Barton, Jasper, Newton and McDonald Counties. There are nine other AAAs in Missouri, and nationwide, there are 622 Area Agencies on Aging.

I want to highlight three types of services supported by the Older Americans Act that have more than likely affected you or someone you know: nutritional services, supportive services and programs to assist family caregivers. These are services that support seniors, allowing them to remain in their communities. They are programs that, per the OAA, the Area Agencies on Aging manage.

• The NUTRITIONAL SERVICES supported by the OAA ensure the health and well-being of older adults by enhancing access to nutritious food at home and in the community. In our four-county service area, we operate seven senior centers. We served more than 83,500 nutritious meals at these seven locations last fiscal year.

The home-delivered meal program (often called Meals on Wheels) is another vital program under the OAA that we manage. More than 90% of older adults receiving home-delivered meals say this support has helped them to remain in their own homes. In the last fiscal year, Area Agency on Aging, Region X, delivered more than 271,000 meals to homebound seniors in our four counties. In addition to nutritionally balanced senior meals, our staff and volunteers also deliver vital human companionship — an important added benefit for older men and women who get to enjoy regular visits from people they know and can trust.

• The SUPPORTIVE SERVICES authorized by the OAA provide flexible funding to state and local agencies to offer senior transportation programs, information and referral services, case management services, chore services, in-home services for frail older adults and much more. It’s especially encouraging to see so many older adults who live alone accessing transportation services. As many of these men and women report, without this important benefit, they might otherwise be homebound.

• The OAA-funded National Family Caregiver Support Program helps older adults age in place by promoting family caregiving and reducing reliance on institutionalization. Family caregivers are the backbone of the nation’s long-term services and supports system. The OAA provides vital supports to caregivers to bolster their ability to continue caring for their loved ones.

More than 75% of caregivers participating in programs supported by this provision of the OAA say these services have enabled them to provide care longer than would have been possible otherwise, and an astounding 89% of caregivers reported that program services helped them to be better caregivers.

For more than 50 years, the Older Americans Act has connected older adults and their caregivers to services that help older adults age with health, dignity and independence in their homes and communities — where they want to be.

In 2019, Congress must again reauthorize this vital federal program that serves every community in the country. With the rapid growth of America’s aging population, it’s essential that Congress make wise investments in critical OAA programs and services.

JENNIFER SHOTWELL is the executive director of the AAAX.

Contact officials

Please contact your U.S. senators and representative to let them know how vital the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act truly is. The following is local contact information for our elected officials:

• Sen. Roy Blunt, 2740 B. East Sunshine, Springfield, MO 65804. Phone: 417-877-7814.

• Sen. Josh Hawley, 324 Park Central West, Suite 101, Springfield, MO 65806. Phone: 417-869-4433.

• Rep. Billy Long, 2727 E. 32nd St., Ste. 2, Joplin, MO 64804. Phone: 417-781-1041.

• Rep. Vicky Hartzler, 1909 North Commercial Street, Harrisonville, MO 64701. Phone: 816-884-3411.

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