On February 6, 2024, ACL released a final rule to update the regulations for implementing its Older Americans Act (OAA) programs. The new regulations will take effect on March 15, 2024, but regulated entities have until October 1, 2025 to comply. ACL looks forward to working with partners in the aging network to implement the final rule and will provide robust technical assistance and other resources to support states, tribes and tribal organizations, area agencies on aging, and others in the aging network in meeting its requirements.
Strengthening the system that helps millions age in place
Our world has changed dramatically in the 36 years that have passed since the last substantial update to the regulations for most of ACL’s Older Americans Act Programs in 1988. The population of older adults has nearly doubled, and older adults are living longer than ever before. Their expectations for aging are different from those of earlier generations. Increased understanding of the impact of the social determinants of health is reshaping health care, as non- medical services that help people avoid hospitalization and institutional care – like those provided through OAA programs – are increasingly being incorporated into health care service delivery models. In addition, the OAA has been amended by Congress seven times since 1988.
One important thing has not changed, however. Older adults overwhelmingly want to continue to live independently, in the community – and nearly 95 percent of them do, many with the support of ACL’s OAA programs.
The 2024 final rule aligns regulations to the current statute, addresses issues that have emerged since the last update and clarifies a number of requirements. It aims to better support the national aging network that delivers OAA services and improve program implementation, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the nation's growing population of older adults can continue to receive the services and supports they need to live – and thrive – in their own homes and communities.
Key provisions of the 2024 Older Americans Act Final Rule
The updated regulations reinforce and clarify policies and expectations, promote appropriate stewardship of OAA resources, and incorporate lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the final rule:
- Clarifies requirements for state and area plans on aging and details requirements for coordination among tribal, state and local programs.
- Improves consistency of definitions and operations between state and tribal OAA programs.
- Clarifies and strengthens provisions for meeting OAA requirements for prioritizing people with the greatest social and economic needs.
- Specifies the broad range of people who can receive services, how funds can be used, fiscal requirements, and other requirements that apply across programs.
- Clarifies required state and local agency policies and procedures. For example, the final rule establishes expectations regarding conflicts of interest.
- Requires state agencies to establish flexible and streamlined processes for area agencies to receive approval for contracts and commercial relationships.
- Includes guidance for the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Native American Caregiver Support Program, which were authorized since the last update.
- Addresses emergency preparedness and response, incorporating lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Establishes expectations for legal assistance and activities to prevent elder abuse.
- Clarifies the role of the aging network in defending against the imposition of guardianship and in promoting alternatives.
- Updates definitions, modernizes requirements, and clarifies flexibilities within the OAA nutrition programs. For example, the rule allows for continuation of innovations developed during the pandemic, such as providing carry-out meals through the congregate meals program, in certain circumstances.
Developed in collaboration with the aging network
The release of the final rule is the culmination of many years of engagement with the national aging network. It also reflects input received through a request for information; a series of listening sessions, including consultations with tribes and other engagement with Native American grantees; and more than 750 comments received in response to the June 2023 Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) from a wide range of stakeholders including states, area agencies on aging, national aging organizations, and more. The thoughtful comments validated the overall direction of the proposed rule and provided information that ACL incorporated to further refine and strengthen the final rule.
About the Older Americans Act
First passed in 1965 and last reauthorized on March 25, 2020, the OAA authorizes a wide range of programs and services, most of which focus on helping older adults age in place. These services include home-delivered and congregate meals, support for family caregivers, preventive health services, personal and home care services, transportation, legal assistance, elder abuse prevention, and so much more. In addition, the OAA provides ombudsman services for people who live in long-term care facilities.
Through the aging services network, the OAA helps older adults continue to work and volunteer, live independently and age with dignity, to the great benefit of all. Because of the OAA, neighborhoods and organizations across the country are able to continue to draw upon the wealth of knowledge that comes only with life experience.
Through its Administration on Aging, ACL administers most of the provisions of the OAA. (The OAA Senior Community Services Employment Program is administered by the Department of Labor and is not covered by this final rule.)