By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 05:33:00 PM

“Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought.” Emily Dickinson 

TRUE? FALSE? : The Older Americans Act of 1965 was the first federal initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults; it was passed as a part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms.  

True! (Pub.L. 89-73, 79 Stat. 218, July 14, 1965; reauthorized by Congress in 2006 in its entirety, effective through FY 2011) 

Whether you’re a senior citizen, an old person’s relative or elder’s caregiver, you benefit from the Older Americans Act and the National Aging Network. The Tri-City Café’s menu refers to “Title III …OAA funds administered through the Alameda Area Agency on Aging.” The tri-cities are Albany, Berkeley and Emeryville. 

Title II of the OAA established the Administration on Aging to carry out the Act’s provisions Act. Other Titles created specific projects, including computer training and civic involvement, a program for engaging low-income senior citizens in community service employment and volunteer opportunities. Volunteers are needed by many ‘non-profits,’ and application forms are available on the Internet. 

Title VII creates state grants for programs providing “vulnerable elder rights protection.” Alas, elder abuse may occur in many places – home sweet home, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, clinics, etc.; its imposers may be caregivers, family members, therapists, counselors would-be social workers and neighbors. Read “Elder abuse and mistreatment : policy, practice, and research” edited by M. Joanna Mellor and Patricia Brownell. (Haworth Press, c2006) Go online and view the video “Nursing Home Nightmare: Perfect Cause Founder and President Wes Bledsoe Discusses the Nursing Home Abuse Case.” Today Video, Dec. 4, 2008. 

National Aging Network funds are based primarily on the percentage of an area’s population age 60 and older. In FY 2008 its initiatives provided services to nearly 3 million people. A disproportionate number of seniors receiving services (27%) are below the poverty line (compared to 9.7% of the general population over age 60).  


I sat a few feet away from an incredible, yellow lab Guide Dog at Berkeley Rep’s March 11 matinee. Thursday matinees attract senior citizens; the free hearing aids work well, and the volunteer ushers are helpful. This production -- Concerning Strange Devices From The Distant West reminded me of 19th Century English traveler, writer and natural historian Isabella Lucy Bird (1831–1904,) whose writings included Unbeaten tracks in Japan: An account of travels on horseback in the interior,” published in 1881.  


Encomium for the 

• Berkeley Firefighters who deliver annual Holiday groceries bags to low-income senior/disabled housing tenants. 

• Berkeley 911 who comes through with logical questions and prompt response. 

• Berkeley Firefighter Cal Mettler. I recently had occasion to observe this able and patient professional in his Paramedic role as he shared his knowledge and skills with a 95-year old who was “down” and distraught.  



Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at