An Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is a public or private non-profit agency, designated by each state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at the regional and local levels. “Area Agency on Aging” is a generic term—specific names of local AAAs may vary.
The concept of this massive network of AAA’s across the country was first designed and implemented in 1973 under the Older Americans Act (OAA). There are now over 600 AAA’s in the United States: 16 of them in Colorado.
The OAA provides the framework for all AAAs. Because the OAA calls for local management and decision-making, AAAs can create innovative programs that support the health and independence of older adults in their community. For that reason, no two AAAs are exactly alike. Local AAAs often also serve as advocates for older adults, enabling leaders to engage local and state legislators on issues important to their constituents.
The mission of the AAAs is to assist older adults (60+, and with preference to lower-income households) to age with independence and dignity at home. To fulfill that mission, each AAA typically contracts with local service providers to deliver a menu of direct aging services, such as meals, transportation, and in-home services. Some AAAs also provide information and referrals for case management, benefits/health insurance counseling, and family caregiver support programs.
While we often blame our lawmakers for a lack of foresight: they certainly were looking ahead in 1973. Between 2006 and 2016 the population aged 60 and over increased 36% from 50.7 million to 68.7 million. This is an increase from 1973 when only 8% of the population was 65 or over. At the same time, the total U.S. population has grown from 215 million to over 332 million.
Also, the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) was created during the reauthorization of the OAA in 2000. The goal of the NFCSP is to support caregivers assisting older adults and grandparents over age 60 raising grandchildren. The services provided may include counseling, support groups, training, and assistance with care resources. These programs are also run by AAAs.
The Colorado network of AAAs includes 16 agencies designated by the State Unit on Aging. The AAAs in Colorado are housed in local governments, county government offices, or non-profit organizations. Each AAA provides no-cost to the consumer services either directly or through local service providers. Services include information and assistance, personal care, homemaker services, chore services, congregate and home-delivered meals, case management, nutrition counseling and education, assisted transportation, legal assistance, outreach, and caregiver support services. In addition, AAAs are active in advocacy, planning, coordination of services, sharing information, and collaborating with local agencies to maximize the impact of their mission to serve Colorado’s older adults.
Many AAAs participate in the Lifelong Colorado Plan, an inclusive strategy to build and support livable communities for people of all ages. The goal is to make Colorado the most age-friendly state in the country. Colorado already holds the distinction of having the second-fastest rate of aging among the 50 states.
To get a better idea of what an AAA can do to help an older adult, (again, at no cost) let’s review a few of Colorado’s AAAs.
Vintage serves Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin, and Summit counties. Formally known as the Alpine Area Agency on Aging, Vintage’s mission is “to provide and connect our community with supports and services that promote aging with independence and dignity for individuals sixty and older and their caregivers in their community of choice.” Their services include transportation, dental/vision assistance, aging options counseling, nutrition programs including meal delivery, caregiver support including a Caregivers Conference, respite services, evidence-based health programs, volunteerism, and educational programs. Volunteer opportunities include companionship, respite, transportation, food support, and Medicare counseling.
Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging
Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging services are available to residents over 60 years of age or their caregiver in El Paso, Park, or Teller County. This agency contracts with 18 organizations and businesses to provide in-home services like dementia care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and caregiver support. There are also food access and delivery services, fall prevention, home modification services, and health insurance counseling. Pikes Peak focuses heavily on reaching residents who are socially isolated, are low income, or live in rural areas.
Upper Arkansas Agency on Aging
The Upper Arkansas Agency on Aging serves residents living in Lake, Chaffee, Custer, and Fremont counties. The caregiver respite program provides 8 hours of relief each month to caregivers who take care of a resident full time. If a resident needs a caregiver or just help around the house, the agency can provide those services, as well. Legal services, dental services, wellness checks, and nutritional counseling are also available.
Larimer County Agency on Aging
The Larimer County Agency on Aging serves residents and caregivers living in Berthoud, Estes Park, Fort Collins, LaPorte, Loveland, and Wellington. The mission is to “advocate, plan, coordinate, and deliver services for older adults, adults living with disabilities, and caregivers so they may experience their highest quality of life characterized by empowerment, dignity, health, and independence.” The Options Counseling program provides personalized assistance to help older adults understand how long-term care works. This information can help a resident make informed choices about their aging and remain as independent as possible in the community. There is also an interesting program called Transition Coordination Services in which an older adult in a skilled nursing facility can find the services needed to safely live at home. Other services such as meal delivery, transportation, legal services, and home modification services are available.
Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) AAA
The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) AAA is the largest in the state, encompassing the heavily populated Denver metro area to include the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Clear Creek, Douglas, Gilpin and Jefferson, and the City and County of Broomfield, and the City and County of Denver. In addition to the set of services previously described, the DRCOG AAA also runs two different ombudsman programs—one focused on long-term care facilities and one on PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) facilities. Additionally, the DRCOG AAA is very active in representing all sixteen AAA’s at the State Legislature.
These short summaries touch on five of the sixteen Area Agencies on Aging in Colorado. Clearly, there are many similarities in the services offered; this is by design. And yet, as you have seen, some local offerings are unique to their particular area. Each of these agencies can be an essential resource for anyone over 60 and their caregivers. If you need support, advice, counseling, or education on your current living situation or are planning for your future, contact the AAA for your area.