One of the perks of representing Health eVillages on the Rural Aging Advisory Council is the opportunity to learn from colleagues from around the country who have committed to join together to help address social isolation and loneliness for aging adults in rural America. Founded in 2017 by Tivity Health, the MIT Age Lab, Jefferson College of Population Health, the Tramuto Foundation and Health eVillages, this broad-based group of advocates from across all sectors – healthcare, social services, academia, faith-based groups, business and government, meet regularly to plan our annual Connectivity Summit on Rural Aging and to advance key initiatives that will positively impact the health and well-being of rural seniors.

In the first few months of 2019, the Advisory Council has weighed in on federal policy to support older Americans. The Council submitted recommendations to recognize social connection as a core component of Healthy People 2030.  Additionally, the Council filed official comments on CMS’ CY2020 Medicare Advantage Proposed Rates to help ensure that Medicare beneficiaries who are chronically ill have access to other necessary services beyond medical treatments.

At our Advisory Council meeting in March, we turned our attention to the Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA.) Two Council members –Bob Blancato of National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs and Amy Gotwals of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, briefed our Council membership on the history of the OAA, current issues with reauthorization and legislative efforts to improve the OAA.

The OAA was created in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s Great Society efforts. The purpose was to create a nationwide network of community-based services to help millions of older Americans realize good health, independence and dignity after decades of working. As our nation’s older population is growing fast – by 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older, strengthening supportive services available at the community level such as nutritious meals, family caregiver support, transportation, health promotion, disease prevention and protection from abuse are more important than ever. Ultimately, the OAA helps millions of Americans remain as independent as possible and age in place within their communities. OAA services, according to the AARP Policy Institute, “play a key role in preventing more costly institutional services and hospitalizations…yet, current funding for OAA is woefully inadequate.”

As the cold weather dwindles and spring showers approach, next month we will celebrate National Older Americans Month and join with our colleagues around the nation to advocate for a strong, fully funded reauthorization of the OAA. Learn more about Health eVillages’ Rural Aging work at http://www.healthevillages.org/rural-aging/.

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