Celebrating 50 Years of Area Agencies on Aging

Founded in 1974, Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) were designed to create home and community-based services that maximize the independence and dignity of older adults. The program was created by the federal Older Americans Act (OAA) which has allowed for the formation of AAAs across the country - just like the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM). In Michigan alone there are 16 AAAs that serve all of the state’s 83 counties, with AAAWM serving a nine-county region that includes Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Osceola. With this expansive nationwide network, AAAs have been able to grow and adapt to changing needs which has increased older adults’ access to information and resources related to aging.

Autonomy in Aging

One of the key missions of AAA is to help older adults age in the way they choose which ultimately promotes a greater sense of independence. While there are often concerns about safety, getting around, and performing daily activities, our OAA and Kent County Senior Millage (KCSM) partners offer a number of services to help including personal care, transportation, home delivered meals, support groups, home modifications, adaptive equipment, and many other services. If you are looking to get plugged in to services, you can visit or visit at the state-level.

Reinventing Purpose

For some older adults, aging can bring about feelings of isolation or perhaps questioning what their purpose should be. With options like senior centers, recreational therapy, or adult day centers, individuals have the chance to explore new paths for joy and meaning. This can also ring true for caregivers who can get so consumed with the care of their loved one that they lose their own sense of self. By utilizing AAA resources, there is a path to move through these challenges.

Researching Community Needs

To effectively help older adults it’s also important that AAAs play an active role in researching what supports America’s aging population needs to age in place. This can involve investigating the gaps in care that exist for older adults and caregivers, cataloging the services available, and prioritizing unmet needs so that plans can be developed to address them. In some cases, meeting seniors’ needs requires advocacy at both the state and federal level, and in other cases, the formation of new services is necessary.

Advocating for Older Adults & Caregivers

Perhaps most importantly, AAAs advocate on behalf of older adults and caregivers. This includes advocating for new programs, more funds for existing programs, and public policies that benefit seniors. AAAs have been successful in advocating for federal, state, and local resources, and blend all three into a cost-effective service system that can then be used to help local communities.

Interested in getting involved with advocacy? Join us at the next Advocates for Senior Issues meeting: