Today is the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, the landmark federal legislation signed into law by President Johnson in 1965.

That year, a local gathering of gerontologists, social workers, academicians, regional planners, health and economic specialists, faith-based groups, governmental agencies and non-profit social service groups came together to discuss the needs of older adults in our community.

Their vision led to the start of your council on aging. Established in 1967, Pima Council on Aging opened its doors in a tiny office downtown, and in 1973, the Pima Association of Governments designated PCOA as the Area Agency on Aging. PCOA was the first agency on aging in the state and also served as a model for the national AAA network.

The Older Americans Act is the funding centerpiece for what has grown into community-based services specifically for older adults and their family caregivers: meals, transportation, housing and home–based care.

Over the past decades, other important programs and services have come onboard: health promotion classes, health insurance and benefits assistance, family caregiver services and support groups, long-term care planning, personal budgeting assistance, the long-term care ombudsmen and the community services system for home — and community services.

The bottom line is that Pima Council on Aging exists because of the Older Americans Act.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of two of the most important programs for older adults — Medicare and Medicaid (AHCCCS in Arizona) — and also marks the 80th anniversary of Social Security.

Every 10 years, under the auspices of the White House Conference on Aging, the nation pauses to reflect on its older Americans. The 2015 White House Conference on Aging was a one-day virtual conference when advocates and policy makers looked at the future of aging services.

The White House forum is grounded by a series of four briefs, incorporating the findings of the five regional “Listening Sessions”: Healthy aging, long-term services and supports, elder justice and retirement security.

The outcomes of the conference will be a renewal of vision and on-the-ground action by PCOA and the national network of Area Agencies on Aging and allied groups. After all, everyone will experience aging, and while the demand for services grows, the financial resources are decreasing. There will be challenges but also many new opportunities for adults of all ages to be more engaged and definitely foster intergenerational conversations.

It’s time to think outside the proverbial box about aging. The fact is aging is everyone’s issue at some point in time and all adults, spanning Millennials and Gen Xers, the millions of Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 who are turning 65 every day, and grand elders of the Greatest Generation, can work together.

Today’s young adults will be tomorrow’s influencers; they will affect the way we age in our society. Let’s promote community conversations with an eye on uniting the generations because we believe our community can benefit by spanning generations.

After all, the PCOA mission is to promote dignity and respect for aging, and advocate for independence in the lives of older adults and their families, now and for generations to come.

W. Mark Clark is president and CEO of the Pima Council on Aging. Contact PCOA at

Article originally ran in Arizona Daily Star.  Reprinted with kind permission.

National programs for older adults have major impact

By W. Mark Clark Special to the Arizona Daily Star

July 14, 2015


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