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I want to thank the Chairmen, Mr. Roybal and Mr. Martinez, for convening this morning's hearing. I would venture to say that the reauthorization of the older Americans Act is the single most important action the 102nd Congress will take on behalf of our 35 million senior citizens.
The Select Committee on Aging knows well that older Americans have much to contribute and much to get out of life. The older Americans Act makes sure that millions of seniors -- regardless of age or income -- are afforded the opportunity to maintain their dignity and remain productive, independent members of the community; and, in the community is exactly where our aging population belongs. Older Americans can take great pride in the knowledge that they are our society's richest source of civic and moral values. Our young people have much to learn from the wisdom seniors have acquired through the decades by triumphing over life's daily trials. All of society is deprived of this wisdom when an older person is institutionalized, and that's why the older Americans Act programs are so important.
Ever since I was appointed to the Select Committee in 1986,
as a freshman in Congress, I have taken a special interest in the older Americans Act. In 1987, I introduced and passed an amendment to Title III of the Act which provided for preventive
health education and screening, Medicare and Medigap insurance
funding. A statutory funding trigger has prevented the funding of much of Title III. I understand that proposals have been advanced which would eliminate this funding trigger. I am anxious to hear from today's witnesses how the adoption of these proposals would likely affect overall older Americans Act funding and the
operation of already-funded programs.
I am also particularly interested in transportation issues as they relate jointly to the older Americans Act reauthorization and the reauthorization of the Urban Mass Transportation Act (UMTA). No matter how many wonderful programs and services are offered by senior centers nationwide, they can achieve nothing if seniors are unable to access them.
The key to this access, especially in the many rural areas of . this vast Nation, is transportation. I know that AARP has joined with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging in conducting a comprehensive survey of their membership on transportation issues. This survey will be important to the reauthorization debate; but until that information is available, I would hope that the witnesses here today will address relevant
issues of transportation and the success or failure of
coordination between UMTA and older Americans Act transportation
Again, I thank the Chairmen for calling today's hearing, and I thank the witnesses who have come to share their expertise with the Committees.
STATEMENT BY CONGRESSMAN WAYNE OWENS
THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT
APRIL 25, 1991
IN 1965 THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT WAS ENACTED IN
RESPONSE TO CONCERN FOR OUR OLDER AMERICANS. NOW, OVER
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT IS THE
MAJOR VEHICLE PROVIDING SOCIAL SERVICES TO OLDER PERSONS
IN THE UNITED STATES. IT IS ONE OF THE SUCCESS STORIES OF
OUR GOVERNMENT - PROVIDING FOR THE FRAIL AND THE WELL
THROUGHOUT OUR COUNTRY. HOWEVER, AS SUCCESSFUL AS
THIS PROGRAM HAS BEEN, IT IS STILL IN DIRE NEED OF INCREASED
CURRENTLY WE ARE SEEING A TREMENDOUS GROWTH IN OUR
OLDER AMERICAN POPULATION. IN MY OWN DISTRICT, THE 60 PLUS POPULATION GREW BY 71 PERCENT AND THE 75 PLUS POPULATION GREW BY 106 PERCENT OVER THE LAST TWO DECADES. BY THE YEAR 2040, OLDER PEOPLE WILL REPRESENT 22 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION NATIONWIDE - APPROXIMATELY DOUBLE OF WHAT IT IS NOW.
WE MUST BEGIN TODAY TO FOCUS ON THIS DRAMATIC SHIFT
IN POPULATION STRUCTURE, ON THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RAMIFICATIONS IT WILL HAVE, AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO BETTER SERVE THE OLDER PEOPLE OF OUR COUNTRY.
ONE ISSUE RECEIVING A GREAT DEAL OF ATTENTION UNDER
THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT IS COST SHARING. MANDATORY
COST SHARING, USING INCOME AS AN ELIGIBILITY FOR PROGRAM
PARTICIPATION, WILL DISCOURAGE PARTICIPATION AMONG MANY
POOR ELDERLY. LET ME RELATE A STORY THAT WAS TOLD TO ME
BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE SALT LAKE COUNTY AGING SERVICES,
SHAUNA O'NEIL, SHE STATES - " THE LAST TIME AGING SERVICES
RAISED THE SUGGESTED DONATION FOR MEALS AT SENIOR
COME TO THE CENTER THAN IT IS THAT THEY PAY THE FULL
SUGGESTED DONATION. I EXPLAINED THAT IT IS IMPORTANT
OLD, VERY FRAIL LADY CAME UP TO ME AND TOLD ME THAT THE
SENIOR CENTER WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF HER LIFE, BUT THAT IN
THE FUTURE SHE COULD ONLY COME TWICE A WEEK BECAUSE SHE
COULD NOT AFFORD MORE. SHE WENT ON TO SAY THAT SHE HAD
NEVER ACCEPTED CHARITY AND WOULD NOT START NOW. IN
FACT, WE HAVE CHARTED A DECREASE IN PARTICIPATION BY THE OLDEST AND MANY WHO WE KNOW TO BE LOW INCOME
WHENEVER WE CHANGE DONATION AMOUNTS. THIS WOULD BE
INCREASED GREATLY BY MANDATORY COST SHARING."*
ANOTHER MAJOR ISSUE OF CONCERN IS THE NEED TO PROMOTE MORE EFFECTIVE TARGETING OF SERVICES TO SPECIAL
POPULATION GROUPS, ESPECIALLY LOW-INCOME MINORITY OLDER
PERSONS. I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU SOME OF THE
LAKE COUNTY'S ELDERLY POPULATION IS MINORITY: BECAUSE
ENTIRE POPULATION, THE STATE HAS DIFFICULTY RESPONDING TO
TARGETED MANDATES. TO EASE THIS DIFFICULTY, MORE
TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE SHOULD BE GIVEN TO THE STATES.
RESPOND TO THESE VERY SMALL POPULATIONS SHOULD BE
INCORPORATED. I AM INTERESTED IN HEARING THE TESTIMONY
FROM THE GAO ON THIS MATTER.
ANOTHER CONCERN STATES HAVE WITH TARGETING IS
FUNDING MECHANISMS. WHILE IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WE
. TARGET FUNDING TO CERTAIN GROUPS, WE MUST KEEP IN MIND
THAT WHEN WE STRENGTHEN TARGETED LAW REQUIREMENTS, WE
MUST ALSO STRENGTHEN OUR RESOURCES GIVEN TO THE STATES.
THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT STRIVES TO ASSURE THAT
OLDER AMERICANS LIVE IN DIGNITY AND INDEPENDENCE. WE
MUST CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR ADEQUATE FUNDING AND THE WELL-BEING OF AMERICA'S OLDER POPULATION. I LOOK FORWARD
TO HEARING THE TESTIMONY OF OUR WITNESSES.