Older Americans Act

Title VII Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Activity

Title VII, the Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Title, addresses the need for strong advocacy to protect and enhance the basic rights and benefits of vulnerable older people.

Through Title VII, Congress refocused the Older Americans Act's original advocacy mission and empowered state agencies on aging to "provide firm leadership...to assure the rights of older individuals...[are] protected."

Congress also recognized that while conditions for older persons have improved since 1965, there are many vulnerable elderly who suffer serious deprivation, are denied their basic rights and benefits, and need vigorous advocacy on their behalf. Title VII encourages state agencies to concentrate their advocacy efforts on issues affecting those who are the most socially and economically vulnerable.

Title VII brings together and strengthens four existing advocacy programs:

  1. Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
  2. Programs for the Prevention of Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation
  3. State Elder Rights and Legal Assistance Development Programs
  4. Insurance/Benefits Outreach, Counseling and Assistance Programs

In addition, Title VII calls on state Agencies to take a holistic approach to elder rights advocacy by coordinating the four programs and fostering collaboration among programs and other advocates in each state to address - at a systems level - issues of the highest priority for the most vulnerable elders.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program assists residents of long-term care facilities and their family and friends to voice concerns regarding conditions affecting the quality of their care. The program also promotes policies and practices to improve the quality of life in nursing and board and care homes and other adult care facilities.

Working through hundreds of grassroots programs, ombudsmen and ombudsman volunteers monitor both private and publicly-subsidized care. They educate consumers and providers about residents' rights and good care practices, including alternatives to chemical and physical restraints limiting individual freedom, leading to physical and emotional deterioration. The data in some states demonstrate that ombudsman can help to reduce the level of deficiencies in the facility. The ombudsman's role in preventing neglect and abuse of residents is one of their most important roles.

Prevention of Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Programs

The goals of the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Programs are to:

  • Develop and strengthen activities to prevent and treat elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Use a comprehensive approach to identify and assist older individuals subject to abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Coordinate with other state and local programs and services to protect vulnerable adults, particularly older individuals.

AoA provides leadership for state elder abuse prevention programs. AoA activities have emphasized:

  • Professional awareness of the need for coordination among service systems to prevent elder abuse and combat crimes against the elderly.
  • Professional awareness outside the aging network of the potential of Older Americans Act programs to prevent elder abuse and combat crime against the elderly.
  • Public awareness of the seriousness of crimes against the elderly.

AoA has assisted the American Medical Association (AMA) in developing its "Diagnostic and Treatment Guidelines on Elder Abuse and Neglect," which the AMA has distributed nationwide to physicians. AoA also has worked with the American Bar Association Commission on Legal Problems to develop recommendations for state courts handling elder abuse cases. In addition, the Administration on Aging has worked with the Police Executive Research Forum, the Justice Department and the American Association of Retired Persons to improve the law enforcement community's response to the problems of crimes against the elderly and elder abuse.

These programs have also been supported by awarding Title IV funds to establish the National Center on Elder Abuse. The center has supported state elder abuse prevention programs by providing a national information clearinghouse at the University of Delaware, conducting short term studies and providing training and technical assistance activities. The center is conducting the first phase of an elder abuse incidence study, supported jointly by AoA and the Administration for Children and Families. Information from this study will enable program administrators to design programs to meet prevention and treatment needs as part of an elder abuse program and an elder rights advocacy strategy.

The State Outreach, Counseling and Assistance Program

States implement this program in a variety of ways in response to the needs founded within their states and coordinate their activities with related counseling and outreach programs. Different states emphasize areas such as pensions, outreach to those eligible for SSI and Food Stamps as well as expansion of health insurance counseling and assistance efforts.