In Congress, we are tasked with serving the interests of diverse demographics within our congressional districts. The fastest growing demographic within many of our constituencies is Americans over 65. Today the life expectancy rate in our nation is at a historic high – an amazing achievement in our history. This means we must take steps now to ensure older Americans have access to quality, timely services which allow them to live and thrive in their own homes for as long as possible. The newly-passed Dignity in Aging Act (H.R. 4334), which reauthorizes the Older Americans Act (OAA), fulfills that commitment to our seniors.
Over the past 10 years, the population aged 65 and over increased from 37.2 million in 2006 to 49.2 million in 2016. This population is projected to nearly double to 98 million by 2060. Creating lasting solutions to help this ever-growing population to live and flourish independently is of the utmost importance. Since 1965, the OAA has governed the organization and delivery of services for senior citizens throughout the country. Helping seniors maintain autonomy is the key goal of this legislation, and the social and nutritional programs offered by OAA are vehicles for the independence they deserve.
The increased funding authorized by H.R. 4334 will aid Kentucky’s Area Development Districts – which serve as the Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and administer OAA programs within the Commonwealth – in their efforts to provide a range of comprehensive services to an increasing population of older Americans. OAA’s elder care strategy is far-reaching and comprehensive, including programs to deliver meals at senior centers, schools and churches. Beyond this significant component, OAA includes care to prevent abuse and exploitation of seniors, provides family caregiver support systems and offers community service employment opportunities. From meeting countless senior members of communities throughout the 1st District, I know that access to programs like these is critical for seniors to thrive independently.
I am especially proud of my recent work on a bipartisan bill – the National Family Caregiver Support Program Cap Elimination Act of 2019 (H.R. 4853) – which was included within the final package and supports older Americans serving in caregiving roles for children. This bill eliminates the arbitrary cap on the percentage of funding AAAs can use to provide services to older caregivers raising younger relatives. These provisions will be especially beneficial in Kentucky where many older relatives have taken on the responsibilities of raising children whose parents are unable to take care of them due to the opioid crisis. I was honored to work on this bill with Representative Trahan (MA-03) and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to support families and children impacted by the drug crisis.
Senior community members I’ve met with throughout the 1st District add an incredible sense of knowledge and character to our communities. The fabric of our society is made up of the hard work and wisdom of seniors who have paved the way for many of the successes we enjoy today. Passing meaningful legislation aimed at better serving our nation’s seniors will remain a top priority of mine, and I look forward to improving and expanding opportunities for our seniors throughout the 116th Congress.
Rep. James Comer is a United States Congressman for the 1st Congressional District, which spans from south central Kentucky to the river counties of far western Kentucky. Contact him with any questions or concerns in his Washington D.C. office at (202) 225-3115, in the Tompkinsville Office at (270) 487-9509, in the Paducah Office at (270) 408-1865, or schedule an appointment in the Madisonville Office by calling (270) 487-9509.