« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
programs throughout the country? And tens of billions for each of the
other programmatic needs? Certainly not!
Yet our failure to confront
the illusion that the older Americans Act presents solutions to any of
the problems on its agenda lets us ignore the challenges of making priority choices, and the challenges of looking to local priorities and
A third weakness is that the bureaucratic components of the network
the public and voluntary service agencies and the universities and colleges
have quite understandably become preoccupied with sustaining and expanding
the different, thinly-funded program elements with which they are directly
involved. Each program element has a corresponding set of bureaucratic
or educational mechanisms, and each of these sets has developed its own
professional organization or association.
As a consequence, one finds a
great deal of attention given to the apportionment of Older Americans Act
funds earmarked for each of the bureaucratic domains in the network,
but little, if any, attention to how a given problem confronting older
persons is to be solved. In my own state of Massachusetts, for example,
We have continuing conflict among statewide associations for area agencies, for nutrition projects, for home care corporations, for senior centers, and for municipal councils on aging. Last summer this conflict became
so intense, and so unrelated to older persons and their problems, that
the Governor's Citizens Advisory Committee felt impelled to convene a
statewide meeting at which these five state associations were charged to straighten out their bureaucratic differences and come to some
settlements about their division of the territory and its resources. In Massachusetts, as elsewhere, these settlements are not made with an
eye to solving the problems of older persons so much as with an eye to
entrenching firmly the role of the bureaucratic components.
There are additional problems that we might discuss, but perhaps
those I have already addressed are sufficient to convey my basic point
namely, that the Older Americans Act and its programs are not well struc
tured for solving or even for making a substantial impact upon the
problems of aging in our society. The legislation and its programs
in spelling out an agenda of issues affecting older persons.
Act's programs have been well designed for helping each Congressman or
Congresswoman know how many constituents in his or her district have
been served a meal or provided with some other form of assistance.
is now time, however, to address the larger issue of how, if at all, the
Act might help solve or have a substantial impact upon one or more
problems affecting older persons.
I believe that one possible way to shift to a problem-solving
orientation would be through a strategic departure
approach that eliminates the compartments separating the various titled programs of the Act area planning and services, training, research gerontology centers, senior centers, and nutrition and consolidates
the funds available.
Each community would receive its total formula
allotment of funds as at present. But, working through its Area Agency,
each community would be required to make a priority decision for using
those funds, in order to have a substantial impact upon the most extreme
problem confronted by older persons in that commnity. The legislation would not provide restrictions as to categories of priority other than
the extensive agenda of legitimate general concerns that has already
Rather it would provide that most of the funds
available, somewhere between 80 and 90 percent, be expended by each
area for a priority program in accordance with its perception of the most
pressing local concern related to the needs of older persons.
Perhaps this general approach would make it possible to have an
impact upon at least one problem of importance in each community.
would certainly be better than the current situation in which only a very
little effort is put into a great many problem areas, and a tremendous
amount of energy is being expended upon issues of professional and indus
trial domain and stature. Such an approach would also be far better than
persisting with the peculiar assumption that effective community services
can be developed and implemented from our nation's capital, in a country
that has 80,000 distinct units of government. The history of our country
shows rather clearly that effective community services
such as profes
sional fire protection services, police services, sanitation services
have been developed in response to a locally experienced sense of crisis
which transcends the fragmentation of governmental authority. Similarly, the approach I am suggesting today might enable services to the aging to
develop as a concentrated response to the priority crises experienced
by older persons in the many different communities in which they live,
rather than as minimum, token coverage of a large range of possibilities
identified by professionals.
To be sure, few if any professionals in the field of aging would be
happy with the approach I have briefly outlined. Presumably, however,
the issue here is to consider a strategy that may have substantial
impact upon problems confronted by older persons, not simply to strengthen and enrich the domains of bureaucrats and professionals like myself.
Professionals in gerontology have provided pioneering leadership
in helping us to recognize the tremendous range and depth of issues
affecting persons as they grow older in America.
The first stage of
issue recognition, fleshed out through the Older Americans Act and other
legislation, is drawing to a close.
Not every issue that has been identi
fied can or necessarily should be resolved through federal intervention.
It is time to shift gears to a second stage in which some hard choices
will have to be made among the many issues and programmatic possibilities
that have been set forth.
And those choices can be made with reasonable
effectiveness in local communities, because a network of mechanisms for
local decisions affecting older Americans is now in place. If we use that network for program priority decisions rather than for consumer-partici
pation window dressing I suspect we will get some sound decisions and
some services that have impact. I don't say this out of some sort of
pious Populism. I have generally found, and I am sure that you have, too, that people and communities with problems that are severe enough to require govermental help usually have little trouble in sorting out their
Thank you for this opportunity to outline some of my perspectives
on Older Americans Act programs.
I will be happy to elaborate, or to deal
with related issues as best I can in response to any questions you may
Senator EAGLETON. We are pleased now to have with us the distinguished Senator from New Mexico, Senator Domenici. Welcome, Senator, You may proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. PETE V. DOMENICI, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE
STATE OF NEW MEXICO
Senator DOMENICI. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. May I say at the outset that I know you have had many serious responsibilities since you came to the Senate, but I don't think there is any more important task than the one what we do this year with the Older Americans Act. I personally am delighted that you are chairing the subcommittee that will redraft and reauthorize the Older Americans Act.
Also I would like to say—as you well know, Mr. Chairman, that there is a Special Committee on Aging in the Senate, and I am privileged to be the Ranking Minority Member of that committee. I want to say to you and to your staff that we have held a number of hearings around the country and here in Washington during the last year on the Older Americans Act. Therefore I hope that, as you proceed through mark-up on this bill, you will call upon us to be of whatever assistance we can be. Our staff is also available to assist your staff and discuss with them our findings.
Some of the members of the Special Committee on Aging will soon introduce, Mr. Chairman-a proposed bill extending and expanding the Older Americans Act of 1965. We understand the grave responsibility you have to come up with the best bill possible and our bill is designed to show you what we have found and what we recommend. It in no way indicates that we have any special lock on solutions to these problems. Having said that, let me ask that you make my entire statement, which is my best efforts to summarize what I think should be in the bill part of the hearing record.
Mr. Chairman, I want to say at the outset that we have been discussing now, for a couple of years, the impact of inflation and the added costs of energy on older Americans. There is no question that the senior citizens in this country are the group most affected by increasing energy costs.
Senator EAGLETON. Yet I note, with a degree of sadness, that the Carter budget cuts back from 65 million to 10 million in this area of energy-I am talking about the emergency program. Anyway, it's shuffled around, what have you. But go ahead, Senator.
Senator DOMENICI. Mr. Chairman, the point I would like to stress is the need to strengthen the Commissioner on Aging. We must move AOA up in the hierarchy of authority where it will get more attention. A more visible AOA will, in my opinion, have a better chance of impacting on the right policy makers in the executive branch and in Congress. For the institutional integrity of the Administration on Aging, the legislation that I will propose will move AOA out of the Office of Human Development Services and make the Commissioner on Aging directly responsible to the Secretary of HEW. This action is designated to strengthen the Administration on Aging and undo some of the damage that I believe has been done by the recent restructuring of OHDS.