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Area Agencies on Aging: Low Cost Resources for Seniors and Their Caregivers

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Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) were created, under the Older Americans Act, to provide community assistance to seniors and their caregivers. There are currently 655 AAAs throughout the United States, offering low- or no-cost in-home services to help seniors remain as independent as possible.

To get a better understanding of how AAA can help, consider the following scenario. Elaine's elderly mother lives alone. While she is capable of caring for her own personal needs, she does need assistance with cleaning her house. After recently giving up driving, she relies on Elaine to run errands and take her to appointments. While Elaine enjoys helping her mother, she has her own family to care for as well as a full-time job. She worries that her mother will feel lonely now that she can no longer drive. Elaine suggested that her mother might benefit from moving into a facility where she could interact with others. Although her mother refuses, Elaine believes this is the best option but doesn't know what else to do.

Does this sound familiar? Situations such as this are very common. Although your elder's needs may vary from the scenario above, many family members face the challenging task of where to turn for help. Caregiving resources and support are available to all seniors and their caregivers through local Area Agencies on Aging.

Elaine contacted the local AAA in her mother's area and found resources to help her care for her mother. She has located transportation to take her mother to and from appointments, as well as to the grocery store. Her mother also started attending the local senior center for lunch, as well as various activities. Elaine arranged for someone to come and clean her mother's home once a week. The AAA can also arrange for a caseworker to come into the home and assess an elder's needs for care facilities and make recommendations.

Many caregiving resources are available for all elders and caregiver, through educational materials and support groups organized into 5 areas:

  1. Information and Access Services
    • Information and Referral/Assistances — Locates services offered through the AAAs
    • Health Insurance Counseling — Answers questions about Medicaid and Medicare plans, and discusses supplemental insurance options
    • Client Assessment — Identifies a senior's eligibility and need for a specific service
    • Care Management — Develops care plans to ensure that seniors receives appropriate services
    • Transportation — Locates services to take seniors to such places as the doctor's office, the grocery store and the pharmacy
    • Caregiver Support — Provides information to caregivers so that they may continue to provide care for a senior, as well as themselves
    • Retirement Planning and Education — Provides services for seniors who are thinking about retiring
  2. Community-based Services
    • Employment Services — Help seniors locate available job opportunities, as well as provide the necessary training/education necessary to secure placement
    • Senior Centers — Offer various social and physical activities for seniors
    • Congregate Meals — Provide meals to seniors in a social group setting
    • Adult Day Care Services — Provide services to seniors and the disabled, as well as provides a break for caregivers
    • Volunteer Opportunity Listings — Compiles available volunteer opportunities for interested seniors
  3. In-home Services
    • Meals-on-Wheels — Delivers afternoon and evening meals to the senior's residence
    • Homemakers — Help with activities such as housecleaning and grocery shopping
    • Chore Services — Help with activities such as home and yard up-keep
    • Telephone Reassurance — Makes daily calls to ensure the senior's safety and well-being
    • Friendly Visiting Services — Make house calls to provide socialization to seniors
    • Energy Assistance and Weatherization Services — Provide financial assistance is available for those who qualify
    • Emergency Response Systems — Fund and operate electronic devices that allow a senior to summons help in an emergency situation
    • Home Health Services — Offer a variety of services including skilled nursing care and medication monitoring
    • Personal care Services — Help with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing
    • Respite Care — Provide short periods of relief from caregiving
  4. Housing
    • Senior Housing — Identifies available living residences for independent seniors
    • Alternative Community-Based Living Facilities — Locates residences, such as assisted living, for seniors who need more assistance
  5. Elder Rights
    • Legal Assistance — Provides help for seniors and their caregivers as they deal with financial and legal issues
    • Elder Abuse Prevention Programs — Provide assistance in the form of guardianship/conservatorship is available to avoid situations of abuse, neglect and self-neglect
    • Ombudsmen Services for Complaint Resolution — Investigates and attempts to resolve claims against long-term care facilities made by residents or on their behalf

Conclusion — The AAAs are an effective and low-cost resource available to all seniors. Keep in mind that the services offered vary among the agencies and are designed to reflect the current need of that particular community's seniors and caregivers.

To find an Area Agency on Aging near you, call the nationwide, toll-free Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or visit

Author: Melinda Kennedy, MA, Adult/Elder Specialist, © All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The information about educational or therapeutic approaches is provided for educational purposes only. Certain treatments may or may not be covered through your benefit plan. Coverage typically depends on your plan specifications and relevant guidelines maintained in relation to your benefit plan.

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