My time in the Holy Land

It didn’t make many national headlines, but the House passed the Dignity in Aging Act this month. As someone who helped introduce this bill, I’m proud to support the reauthorization of many critical social and nutrition services – like Meals on Wheels – to older Americans.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) has served our seniors since the early 1960s – that’s why it was an easy decision to support the Dignity in Aging Act of 2019, which reauthorizes and updates the OAA.

For years, the OAA has provided a diverse range of services for older Americans with the greatest social or economic needs. As our nation and society have evolved, so have the needs of America’s older population. The critical programs included in the OAA help more than 41 million Americans over the age of sixty-five maintain their independence.

If the government is going to get involved, the program better work – and the OAA has proven its worth. The data is clear and reveals the OAA helps prevent costly hospitalizations and institutional care for our seniors. Nowadays, we have the tools to examine if a program is working or not. The Dignity in Aging Act adds important accountability measures – if a program isn’t proving to be effective, then it won’t continue.

I say it often – there is a lot of noise coming out of Washington and many of the policy wins don’t make the evening news. This is a policy win. The Dignity in Aging Act takes important steps to support caregivers, puts a greater focus on combatting senior social isolation, and promotes the ability of older citizens to remain in their homes as they age. This reauthorization empowers older Americans to live longer in the comfort of their homes instead of moving to a long-term care facility, which, in cases involving Medicare, reduces costs to American taxpayers.

Unlike many of the government’s rigid policies and guidelines that are riddled with red tape, this bill will provide flexibility to states to address specific issues impacting their individual senior communities. After all, states know what they need more than the federal government ever will.

South Dakota’s Native American population is nearly ten percent of the state’s total population and those seniors shouldn’t be left out. This bill recognizes this need and authorizes funding specifically for Native American tribes to benefit from OAA programs such as nutrition services, home care, and transportation assistance.

This is a big win for South Dakota’s seniors and their families, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Load comments