This report released by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) offers amendments to the Older Americans Act (OAA) in order to strength effectiveness and efficiency of age planning. With the Congressional removal of funding for new Title IV programs (Activities for Health, Indepen¬dence, and Longevity) in 2012, the report offers significant ways the Act can be strengthened, thereby regaining the trust (and funding) of Congress. The Older Americans Act impacts many state aging organizations, grants, and programs. Local governments and planners will want to be aware of how the Act either helps or hurts their efforts in age ready planning.
Innovation cannot succeed without research and experimentation. The report outlines key elements needed for the OAA to be effective as a leader in age preparation and planning. These include:
- The Administration on Aging (AoA) does not have a robust, centralized, coordinated plan for research initiatives. Currently, they gather research initiatives by other organizations, but the lack of any comprehensive approach means wasted time, resources, and solutions. The report suggests bolstering the research branch of the AoA through the creation of a centralized office by which the AoA can take the lead for gathering knowledge and coordinating research.
- The report proposes the new AoA department, called the “Na¬tional Advisory Council for Aging Services Program Research, Demonstration, Evaluation, and Training”, be headed by a Chief Science Officer who would also help advise the Secretary of the U.S. Depart¬ment of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Assistant Secretary for Health on new research areas and initiatives.
- Currently, state agencies vary in terms of the types of data collected (e.g., provider perceptions of ser¬vice delivery) and data sources (e.g., administrative records, surveys), and impact or outcomes mea¬sured. The lack of standardized research indicators and data collection methods makes it impossible to calculate the impact and outcomes of services. Yet calculating impact drives funding. The centralized research and training department would standardize research, and therefore, would enable local programs to be more efficient, and Congress to have greater trust in the data presented. Though the report offers seven specific amendments to the OAA, these can be grouped into three goals: 1) establish a centralized department within the AoA that would gather, coordinate and expand age-related research, 2) have a Chief Science Officer head it and have the role of the lead team serve as a crucial advisory board, 3) adjust language within the OAA Title IV designation to reflect changes in title and expanded purpose.
How to Use
On the surface, the report is a policy paper. However, local governments and planners can understand and apply the broader implications. These include the need for research pilot projects to have sharper focus in order to promote greater funding and enhanced coordination on the local level. Currently, research efforts are scattershot within the field of aging and AoA services. Future preparation will need to be more focused, less bureaucratic, and with greater emphasis on evidence-based services.