What Are Area Agencies on Aging?

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  • Those aged 60 and over have access to a broad range of services through their local Area Agency on Aging that may help them live as independently as possible.

The United States is home to approximately 622 Area Agencies on Aging. These local nonprofit agencies receive government funds to provide a range of services to older adults to help them live independently in the community and delay or avoid nursing home placement. 

What Are Area Agencies on Aging? 

Area Agencies on Aging were formed in 1965 under the Older Americans Act, which Congress passed to address the lack of community supports for older adults. Today, AAAs connect seniors with a broad range of services and programs to help them age in place. The programs administer some services directly, and they may also contract with local providers. In most cases, AAAs serve specific geographic areas. These may be cities, counties or multi-county regions.   

What Do Area Agencies on Aging Do? 

AAAs coordinate services to help older adults remain in their own homes if that's their preference. Services vary considerably by region and typically include: 

  • Home-delivered and congregate meals 
  • Social and recreational activities 
  • Caregiver support 
  • Care management 
  • Health insurance options counseling  
  • Nonemergency medical transportation 
  • Long-term care ombudsman services 

AAAs are valuable resources that may help older adults age in place, but their scope of services has limitations. In most cases, AAAs contract with local providers for home care and specialized home health care services rather than administer care directly. They may also partner with local charities to provide services such as home-delivered meals, legal assistance or options counseling.

These agencies also don’t provide benefits planning. They generally have specialists on staff who can help individuals determine whether they qualify for Medicaid and veterans’ benefits, but they can’t help seniors structure their income and assets to meet those requirements. 

Who Qualifies for Services? 

To be eligible for services, an individual must be at least 60 years old and live within the agency’s service area. Specific programs may have additional eligibility requirements. For example, to obtain home-delivered meals, applicants may be required to verify that they’re unable to shop for or prepare meals themselves due to age or an injury or illness.  

Finding Other Options for Assistance 

While AAAs provide a range of valuable services, other organizations can fill in the gaps and offer assistance not available through these agencies. Oftentimes, AAAs can connect older adults with the following resources to best serve their needs.  

Aging & Disability Resource Centers 

Like AAAs, Aging and Disability Resource Centers serve designated geographic areas. These centers utilize a No Wrong Door approach, which is a collaborative approach through the Administration for Community Living, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Veterans Health Administration. It enables the ADRC to streamline services, taking the guesswork out of finding the right agency for a given service.  

In some regions, the ADRC is run by the AAA or operates as the AAA. In other places, the agencies are entirely separate. 

Medicaid Planners 

The American Council on Aging provides free Medicaid planning to help seniors get Medicaid, which in some states can help older adults pay for personal care services at home or in a residential care facility. Medicaid has strict income and asset guidelines, but in some cases, applicants who don’t meet these requirements may still get services through Medicaid planning.  

Veterans Benefits Planners 

Veterans benefits can be confusing, and deciding which benefits an individual qualifies for or which programs conflict can be a challenge. To help veterans navigate the maze, the VA accredits representatives to help veterans and their families determine what benefits they qualify for. They can also help individuals request a review or appeal of denied benefits.