MISSION: To foster the development of services to help older persons maintain their independence.
The Administration on Aging (AoA) is the Federal focal point and advocate agency for older persons and their concerns. The AoA administers key Federal programs mandated under various titles of the Older Americans Act. These programs help vulnerable older persons to remain in their own homes by providing supportive services. Other programs offer opportunities for older Americans to enhance their health and to be active contributors to their families, communities, and the Nation through employment and volunteer programs. AoA works closely with its nationwide network of regional offices and State and Area Agencies on Aging to plan, coordinate, and develop community-level systems of services that meet the unique needs of individual older persons and their caregivers. The AoA collaborates with Federal agencies, national organizations, and representatives of business to ensure that, whenever possible, their programs and resources are targeted to the elderly and coordinated with those of the network on aging.
As the responsibilities of this nationwide network of State and Area Agencies on Aging continues to grow, it is essential that they have the necessary information to meet these responsibilities.
The overall evaluation priorities of AoA are to support studies that provide information on the following:
- the success of existing program implementation in meeting the goals of the Older Americans Act
- the design and operation of effective programs
- issues relevant to policy development, legislative planning, and program management.
Summary of Fiscal Year 1996 Evaluations
One evaluation was completed in FY 1996, the evaluation of the Elderly Nutrition Program (ENP) under TitleIII and TitleVI of the Older Americans Act. This evaluation is highlighted in chapter II and is summarized below. The results of the evaluation show that the ENP has succeeded in accomplishing its mission of improving the nutritional intakes of elderly people, as well as in decreasing their social isolation. The evaluation also shows that the program is evolving to meet the changing needs of older people brought on by shifting demographics and changes in the health care system. There are indications of unmet needs for the program's services, as well as signs that there may be new roles for the program in the future.
The ENP provides an average of one million meals per day to older Americans. These meals are targeted toward highly vulnerable elderly populations, including the very old, people living alone, people below or near the poverty line, minority populations, and individuals with significant health conditions or physical or mental impairments. On average, the meals provided easily meet the recommended daily allowance requirements and significantly increase the dietary intakes of ENP participants. The ENP also reduces the social isolation of older Americans in both the congregate and home-delivered programs and links participants with other needed services. Agencies at all levels have forged close links with other parts of America's emerging home and community-based long-term care system. Federal dollars are highly leveraged. Despite participant's low income levels, their contributions account for 20percent of both congregate and home-delivered meal costs. Local donations and volunteer time, often from program participants, account for 14 percent of costs.
Evaluations in Progress
Evaluation is an important part of the AoA program, and a number of evaluation activities are currently under way, although not on a national level. Many State and Area Agencies on Aging are conducting evaluations of their Older Americans Act service programs. These studies generally focus on such issues as the needs of the target population, the quantity and quality of services delivered, and the impact of the services on the older person. Results are used to better design and target Older Americans Act services. Regional offices of the AoA also conduct assessments of the needs of the States for training and technical assistance. Finally, demonstration projects funded by the AoA have evaluation components to enable them to assess their progress in meeting the objectives of their demonstrations.
New Directions for Evaluation
Given the evolving roles of AoA and State and Area Agencies on Aging and the continued (and projected) growth of the Nation's elderly population, AoA's evaluation efforts will continue to focus on effective program planning and service delivery, as well as on continued monitoring of the program's effectiveness in addressing the goals of the Older Americans Act.
The changes occurring in the aging service-delivery network present an opportunity to learn critical lessons in program planning and system development. These changes include more systematic focus on home- and community-based long-term care, growing sophistication in addressing a variety of needs of the older population, the growth of managed care, and the implementation of sophisticated program information systems. Future evaluations will need to consider the impact of these and similar developments on the delivery of Older Americans Act services to our Nation's older persons.