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 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. The 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 continue to grow, it is essential that they have the necessary information to meet these responsibilities.
The overall evaluation priorities of the 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; and
- Issues relevant to policy development, legislative planning, and program management.
Summary of Fiscal Year 1997 Evaluations
Although there are no major evaluations to report during FY 1997, AoA initiated an evaluation of the Supportive Services and Senior Centers provisions of the Older Americans Act (Title III-B). These provisions provide home- and community-based services (HCBS) for which all elderly persons are eligible, with particular attention to older persons in greatest economic or social need. Most home- and community-based services fall under three broad categories: access services, in-home services, and other community-based services. Access services include care coordination, transportation, outreach, and information and assistance. In-home services include personal caregivers, homemakers, chores, and telephone reassurance. States and local communities decide on the mix of services these funds provide through State and area plans for which public participation is required. In FY 1995, the last year for which complete data are available, the Title III-B Program ($306,711,000) provided services to approximately 6,050,000 persons.
A basic operating principle of the Older Americans Act is to provide funds through States to local governments and community organizations with Federal assistance and leadership, but which is flexible enough to address local community needs. This approach is consistent with current legislative trends in establishing intergovernmental funding relationships. There is substantial anecdotal evidence that this flexible decentralized approach has worked very well in fostering the development of HCBS appropriate to diverse States and communities. However, the diversity of the States, communities, service programs, and resource inputs, the long time frame for development, and the general nature of the outcomes sought (comprehensive coordinated HCBS systems) make it difficult to evaluate progress related to Title III-B. State Program Report (SPR) data are a necessary starting point in describing results from Title III-B. But the SPR shows only the output of the services funded and does not illuminate the developmental effects of the aging network funded through Title III-B. Under provisions of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, it is appropriate for AoA to evaluate the outcome results from Title III-B despite the conceptual and methodological difficulties.
Evaluations in Progress
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. During FY 1997, AoA initiated a study to plan an evaluation of the Supportive Services and Senior Centers provisions of the Older Americans Act (Title III-B) (6855). Through this project AoA will identify the conceptual and methodological issues in the evaluation and will develop an approach to this evaluation. The evaluation is expected to develop outcome measures with broad applicability, which can be used repeatedly over time. It is anticipated that the actual evaluation will begin early in FY 1999.
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 States' needs 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.