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Historical Evolution of Programs for Older Americans

The following provides a historical timeline of major Federal legislative and governmental activity addressing the needs of older Americans.

1920 The Civil Service Retirement Act provided a retirement system for many governmental employees.
1935 The Social Security Act passed; provides for Old Age Assistance and Old Age Survivors Insurance.
1937 Railroad Retirement Act provided pensions for retired railroad employees and spouses.
1950 President Truman initiated the first National Conference on Aging, sponsored by the Federal Security Agency.
1952 First federal funds appropriated for social service programs for older persons under the Social Security Act.

Special Staff on Aging established within the Office of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, to coordinate responsibilities for aging.

Federal Council on Aging created by President Eisenhower.

1958 Legislation introduced in Congress, calling for a White House Conference on Aging.
1959 Housing act authorized a direct loan program for non-profit rental projects, for the elderly at low interests rates, and lowered eligibility ages for public-low-rent housing, for low-income women to age 62.
1960 Social Security Administration eliminated age 50 as minimum for qualifying for disability benefits, and liberalized the retirement test and the requirement for fully insured status.
1961 First White House Conference on Aging held in Washington, D.C.

Social Security Amendments lowered the retirement age for men from 65 to 62, liberalized the retirement test, and increased minimum benefits and benefits to aged widows.

1962 Legislation introduced in Congress, to establish an independent and permanent Commission on Aging.

Older Americans Act signed into law on July 14 1965. It established the Administration on Aging within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and called for the creation of State Units on Aging.

William Bechill named first Commissioner on Aging

Medicare, Title XVIII, a health insurance program for the elderly was established as part of the Social Security Act.

Medicaid, Title XIX, a health insurance program for low-income persons, was added to the Social Security Act.

1967 Older Americans Act extended for two years, and provisions made for the Administration on Aging to study the personnel needs in the aging field.

Age Discrimination Act signed into law.

Administration on Aging moved from the Office of the Secretary of HEW and placed in the newly created Social and Rehabilitative Service Agency within the Department.
1968 John Martin named Commissioner on Aging
1969 Older Americans Act Amendments provided grants for model demonstration projects, Foster Grandparents, and Retired Senior Volunteer Programs.
1971 Second White House Conference on Aging held in Washington, D.C.
1972 A new Title VII is created under the Older Americans Act authorizing funds for a national nutrition program for the elderly.
1973 Older Americans Act Comprehensive Services Amendments established Area Agencies on Aging. The amendments added a new Title V, which authorized grants to local community agencies for multi-purpose senior centers, and created the Community Service Employment grant program for low-income persons age 55 and older, administered by the Department of Labor.

Arthur S. Flemming named Commissioner on Aging

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act was enacted; included older persons.
1973 Arthur S. Flemming named Commissioner on Aging

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act was enacted; included older persons.
1974 Title XX of the Social Security Amendments authorized grants to states for social services. These programs included protective services, homemaker services, transportation services, adult day care services, training for employment, information and referral, nutrition assistance, and health support.

Older Americans Act amendments added transportation under Title III model projects.

Housing and Community Development Act enacted; provided for low-income housing for the elderly and handicapped, pursuant to the Housing Act of 1937.

National Institute on Aging created to conduct research and training related to the aging process, and the diseases and problems of an aging population.

Title V of the Farm and Rural Housing Program of 1949 expanded to include the rural elderly as a target group.
1975 Older Americans Act Amendments authorized grants under Title III to Indian tribal organizations. Transportation, home care, legal services, and home renovation/repair were mandated as priority services.
1977 Older Americans Act Amendments required changes in Title VII nutrition program, primarily related to the availability of surplus commodities through the Department of Agriculture.
1978 Older Americans Act Amendments consolidated the Title III Area Agency on Aging administration and social services, the Title VII nutrition services, and the Title V multi-purpose senior centers, into a new Title III and added a new Title VI for grants to Indian Tribal Organizations. The old Title V became the Community Service Employment grant program for low-income persons, age 55 and older (created under the 1978 amendments as Title IX).

Robert G. Benedict named Commissioner on Aging

Congregate Housing Services Act authorized contracts with local public housing agencies and non-profit corporations, to provide congregate independent living service programs.

OAA amendments required each state to establish a long-term care ombudsman program to cover nursing homes
1981 Third White House Conference on Aging held in Washington, D.C.

Lennie-Marie Tolliver named Commissioner on Aging

Older Americans Act reauthorized; emphasized supportive services to help older persons remain independent in the community.

Act expanded ombudsman coverage to board and care homes
1984 Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act clarified and reaffirmed the roles of State and Area Agencies on Aging in coordinating community-based services, and in maintaining accountability for the funding of national priority services (legal, access, & in-home).

Carol Fraser Fisk named Commissioner on Aging
1987 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act provides for nursing home reform in the areas of nurse aide training, survey and certification procedures, pre-admission screening an annual reviews for persons with mental illness.

Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act added six additional distinct authorization of appropriations for services: in-home services for the frail elderly; long-term care ombudsman; assistance for special needs; health education and promotion; prevention of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation; and outreach activities for persons who may be eligible for benefits under supplemental security income (SSI), Medicaid, and food stamps. Additional emphasis was given to serving those in the greatest economic and social need, including low-income minorities.

The Nursing Home Reform Act (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) mandated that nursing facility residents have "direct and immediate access to ombudspersons when protection and advocacy services become necessary." Simultaneously, the OAA reauthorization charged states to guarantee ombudsman access to facilities and patient records, provided important legal protections, authorized state ombudsmen to designate local ombudsman programs and required that ombudsman programs have adequate legal counsel.
1989 Joyce Berry named Commissioner on Aging
1990 Americans with Disabilities Act extended protection from discrimination in employment and public accommodations to persons with disabilities.

Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act reauthorized the HUD Section, 202 Elderly Housing program, and provided for supportive service demonstration programs.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act made it illegal, in most circumstances, for companies to discriminate against older workers in employee benefits.
1992 Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act places increased focus on caregivers, intergenerational programs, protection of elder rights and calls for a 1995 White House Conference on Aging.

The elevation of Commissioner on Aging to Assistant Secretary for Aging.

OAA amendments added a new Title VII "Vulnerable Elder Rights Activities" which included the long-term care ombudsman; prevention of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation; elder rights and legal assistance development; and benefits outreach, counseling and assistance programs. The legislation emphasized the value of the four programs coordinating their efforts. The amendments highlighted the role of local ombudsman programs and the state ombudsman's role as leader of the statewide program and advocate and agent for systemwide change.


Fernando M. Torres-Gil was sworn in as the first Assistant Secretary for Aging in the Department of Health and Human Services on May 6, 1993.
1995 White House Conference on Aging convened May 2 - 5, 1995 in Washington, D.C.

30th Anniversaries of Older Americans Act, Medicare, Medicaid & the Foster Grandparent Program.

60th Anniversary of Social Security

Operation Restore Trust Initiated
1997 Jeanette C. Takamura, Ph.D., was sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on December 8, 1997.
1999 International Year of Older Persons: A Society for All Ages
2000 Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000 signed into law (P.L. 106-501), establishing the new National Family Caregiver Support Program, and reauthorizing the OAA for 5 years on November 13, 2000.
2001 HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson released $113 million for first National Family Caregiver Support Programs grants to states on February 15, 2001.

Josefina G. Carbonell sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Aging on August 8, 2001.

2002 Kick off of 30th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program in March.
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