Throughout the US, there are many organizations operating to support the senior population, by focusing on improving different aspects of their lives.
Whether you are a senior in need of help or someone who is looking for ways to support a loved one, it’s crucial to become aware of these available services. In addition, you might like to get involved by either volunteering or donating to some of these organizations if your time and financial situation permit.
Here is a list of the most prominent organizations and charities that address the most pressing issues that seniors face today:
The Administration on Aging (AOA)
The Administration on Aging (AOA) is an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services, established in order to carry out the aims of the Older American Act (OAA).
Its goals are to promote the well-being of older adults in various aspects such as nutrition, transportation, daily care etc., through its wide range of diverse programs presented below (from the website of its parent agency, the Administration for Community Living):
- Aging and Disability Evidence-Based Programs and Practices – The purpose of the Aging and Disability Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (ADEPP) is to help the public learn more about available evidence-based programs and practices in the areas of aging and disability and determine which of these may best meet their needs.
- Aging and Disability Resource Centers Program/No Wrong Door – These systems provide information and assistance around planning for long-term care needs.
- Behavioral Health – Through aging, behavioral health, and disability network partnerships, ACL offers programs and resources to help older adults, people with disabilities, and their family caregivers to maintain their health and well-being.
- Brain Health – ACL’s Brain Health Resource offers resources on a range of brain health topics.
- Chronic Disease Self-Management Education Programs (CDSME) – Provide older adults and adults with disabilities with education and tools to help them better manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, HIV/AIDS, and depression.
- Elder Abuse Prevention -ACL commits resources to several important projects designed to meet the goals of coordinating federal elder justice efforts, exploring new prevention and intervention models, and providing up-to-date research and information to professionals and the public.
- Falls Prevention -Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for people 65 years of age and older.
- HIV/AIDS – Useful resources for aging professionals and others interested in designing programs for older adults about the prevention, treatment, and care of HIV/AIDS.
- Legal Assistance – Legal assistance and elder rights programs, along with other AoA programs and services, help to promote the independence, autonomy, and well-being of older persons.
- Lifespan Respite Care Program -Lifespan Respite Care programs are coordinated systems of accessible, community-based respite care services for family caregivers of children and adults of all ages with special needs.
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program – States’ Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman programs work to resolve problems related to the health, safety, welfare and rights of individuals who live in LTC facilities (i.e. nursing homes, board and care, assisted living, and other residential care communities).
- Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers (MIPPA) – Provides grants to states and tribes to help older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers apply for special assistance through Medicare.
- National Family Caregiver Support Program -The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) provides grants to states and territories to fund various supports that help family and informal caregivers care for older adults in their homes for as long as possible.
- Nutrition Services – Provides grants to states to help support nutrition services for older people throughout the country.
- Oral Health – Resources for enhancing oral health of older adults across the country.
- Person Centered Planning – Allows individuals to be engaged in the decision making process about their options, preferences, values, and financial resources.
- Retirement Planning and Pension Support – AoA works to support older adults with two programs.
- Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) – Since 1997, AoA has funded Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) projects that recruit and train retired professionals and other older adults to recognize and report instances or patterns of health care fraud.
- Services for Native Americans – ACL funds programs that support American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Americans in the areas of nutrition, supportive services for older adults, and caregiver services.
- State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) – Provides Medicare beneficiaries with information, counseling, and enrollment assistance.
- Support for People with Dementia – ACL provides grants that support state and community efforts to increase the availability of dementia-capable services and supports to persons with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and their caregivers.
- Supporting Adult Protective Services – Adult Protective Services (APS) is a social services program provided by state and local governments serving older adults and adults with disabilities who need assistance because of abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation
- Transportation Research and Demonstration Program – Through an inclusive transportation program, ACL works with communities across the country to give travelers a voice in the planning process and to improve transportation options.
- Veteran-Directed Home & Community Based Services (VD-HCBS) – Provides veterans with opportunities to self-direct their LTSS and continue living independently at home.
- Volunteer Opportunities and Civic Engagement – AoA is working to support the use of volunteers in OAA programs and to provide expanded opportunities for older adults and others to get involved in their communities.
AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, is the largest US non-profit organization working to improve the lives of those over 50. For the past 57 years, its aim has been to help older adults secure the essentials, fighting poverty through its many programs and solutions for economic stability as well as social connection.
The AARP Foundation takes a multifaceted approach to practical solutions, combining industry, government, activists, and volunteers. Its activity in the political sphere helps bring visibility to seniors when it comes to various policies that can cause an impact in their lives.
Also, the foundation offers valuable information as well as resources directly to seniors, empowering them to make a positive change. Members get extra benefits and discounts for many important areas of life such as various types of insurance, health and wellness, travel, entertainment etc.
The AARP’s activities span across the country, so check out news and events in your state.
American Society on Aging
The American Society on Aging (ASA) is an organization offering education, training, and information to those working with seniors, in order for them to learn best practices and stay up to date with the latest research.
Its 5000+ members are practitioners, educators, administrators, policymakers, business people, researchers, students etc., making a difference in the lives of older adults through the wealth of information, training opportunities, webinars, and publications offered by the ASA.
The society offers resources across a wide variety of topics related to aging, being the largest multidisciplinary association of professionals in this field. Topics range from legal and ethical issues, LGBTQ aging, mental health, to spirituality and religion and many other.
The ASA also hosts an annual conference, Aging in America, where attendees working in various aspects of senior care can learn and network.
National Center on Elder Abuse
It is estimated that 10% of seniors in the US have suffered from elder abuse, including physical abuse, psychological or verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) was thus established in 1988, as a part of the AOA (see above), and is one of 27 resource centers funded by the association.
Its mission is to reduce abuse by providing research and education, as well as being involved in policy development and offering practical solutions against abuse through technical assistance and innovative approaches. The NCEA also compiled a list with useful information available for the public, in response to frequently asked questions.
Diverse Elders Coalition
The senior population in the United States is predicted to double from 2010 to 2050, and racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse seniors will form a significantly larger part of that population.
Formed in 2010, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) serves the needs of elders of color as well as LGBT elders, bringing them to the forefront of national policy discussions. The Coalition pursues its goals through public advocacy as well as education. Its current priorities are centered around caregiving, civic engagement, health reforms, and public education, which they are actively campaigning for.
The DEC is made up of six organizations coming together to support progress in policy and pragmatic solutions that face the communities of diverse elders. Its six members are:
- National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA)
- National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA)
- National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)
- National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)
- SAGE: Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders
- Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Each of the DEC members is also actively advocating on behalf of the communities they represent, ensuring that legislators, policy makers, and service organizations include the minority senior sector.
Pension Rights Center
The Pension Rights Center (PRC) is a non-profit organization aiming to protect and promote the retirement security of American seniors. It raises public awareness of various retirement issues by sharing relevant news, legislation, and regulations, as well as offering a platform for accessing statistics, fact sheets, reports, and books.
In addition, the PRC helps people throughout the process of getting their pension. Seniors and caregivers can find help through the Pension Help America (PHA), a website of the PRC. The PHA can put you in contact with counseling projects, government agencies, and legal service providers that offer free information and assistance.
Justice in Aging
Justice in Aging is an organization that fights senior poverty through the power of law, using administrative advocacy and litigation. Their efforts are aimed primarily towards helping marginalized people such as racial minorities, LGBTQ seniors, women, and people with limited English proficiency.
The main aim of the organization is to remove the barriers that often prevent low-income seniors from getting the services they need in order to live with dignity, focusing on two main areas: health-care and economic security. They pursue their goals by working with state and federal agencies in order to promote adequate government programs, as well as offering training for advocates and legal aid lawyers.
Alliance for Retired Americans
More than 4 million members work together as part of the Alliance for Retired Americans, making their voices heard in order to promote social and economic justice, and a higher standard of living for older Americans.
The non-profit organization works closely with the White House and Congress, bringing into focus issues surrounding Medicare and Medicaid, pensions, social security, and prescription drugs, among others.
With $10 per year, you can become a member, get involved, and enjoy the benefits and discounts offered by the alliance.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The CMS website offers important news, health care, and health insurance information for seniors and other Americans receiving Medicare and Medicaid.
National Alliance for Caregiving
The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) is a non-profit organization aiming to increase public awareness of family caregiving issues, conducting research, undertaking policy analysis, and developing best-practice programs. Also, NAC helps care-giving coalitions in almost 30 states with technical assistance.
The NAC is a leader in advocating for the US’ nearly 44 million family caregivers, their main advocacy principles being :
- Expanding caregiver access to support and services
- Protecting the financial security of caregivers
- Including caregivers as vital members of the health and human service system
- Enhancing the health and wellness of caregivers
50 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in issues related to the disease. The association’s aims to make use of research in order to eventually eliminate Alzheimer’s disease, in the meantime helping reduce the risk through the promotion of brain health, and providing support to those affected.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, the association provides an array of resources and information to support you.
The Alzheimer’s Association also offers various ways for the public to get involved and make a difference, whether through donations, volunteering, advocacy, or even shopping.
Meals on Wheels
Meal on Wheels wants all seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. It is one of the most prominent nutrition-focused organizations, fighting senior isolation and hunger through more than 5000 community-based programs in the US.
The organization delivers more than just healthy meals to seniors. Each visit from one of the 2 million staff and volunteers is also an opportunity to socialize and get a safety check. Also, it provides funding, education, and research to address the nutritional needs of vulnerable seniors.
Meals on Wheels also hosts The National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging, which provides training and technical assistance regarding nutrition services, and also offers resources and scientific evidence regarding the role of nutrition in health promotion.
Second Wind Dreams
Second Wind Dreams is a non-profit organization on a mission to change the perception of aging, emphasizing its positive aspects and improving the lives of elders. Since its start in 1997, the organization has become involved in over 1000 senior care communities in 20 countries.
Through its ‘Dreams’ program, the organization has fulfilled tens of thousands of dreams for people. You can also help fulfill a dream by making a small contribution. For some positive stories, check out some fulfilled dreams.
The ‘Gifts of Light’ program helps nursing home residents experience joy during holiday seasons, by receiving gifts and friendly visits. The Virtual Dementia Tour and Dace programs help spread awareness and knowledge to issues surrounding dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Here are several ways you can get involved and improve the lives of seniors.
Pets for the Elderly
Loneliness is an issue that many elderly people suffer from, and pets are a great way to alleviate the symptoms through their unconditional love and companionship. Pets for the Elderly (PFE) is a public charity helping seniors beat loneliness through pet adoption, thus also saving the lives of animals in shelters.
Since 2002, the foundation helped place over 78,000 pets with senior adopters. PFE contributes by paying fees to the participating animal shelters, fees including vet exams, spaying/neutering etc. You can also help alleviate senior loneliness and saving an animal’s life by making a donation to PFE.
SeniorNet is a non-profit organization providing computer and internet education to adults aged 50+, veterans, under-served people, and those with disabilities or impairments. Its mission is to help enhance the lives of people through its extensive curriculum of over 130 courses delivered by volunteer instructors and mentors.
SeniorNet has over 30 learning centers throughout the country, and members receive discounts for the wide variety of courses such as ‘Computer Fundamentals’, ‘Internet and Email’, ‘Avoiding Scams’, and many others.
Independent Transportation Network
Mobility becomes harder with age, especially after seniors decide to stop driving. The Independent Transportation Network of America (ITN) is dedicated to ensuring that seniors don’t end up socially isolated due to a lack of adequate transportation options.
Thus, the ITN has created a network of 13 affiliates in 12 states, supporting community-based transportation services. With almost 10000 members and over 1000 volunteers, the ITN has contributed to more than one million rides for seniors. The ITN also works with Trusted Transportation Partners (TTP) in order to ensure seniors who live in areas they don’t operate in also have adequate options.
Click here to find your local ITN or TTP.
The organization is also actively involved in education, research, and policy in order to promote sustainable mobility solutions.
Honor Flight Network
Honor Flight is a non-profit organization with a mission to honor our veterans for their sacrifice, by transporting them to Washington D.C. to visit their memorials. The organization gives priority to seniors -WWII veterans- as well as terminally ill veterans. Subsequently, the efforts will be focused on the Korean War and Vietnam War veterans.
One look at the veterans’ faces as they arrive at their memorials is enough to understand the importance and value of Honor Flight’s program. There are currently over 38,000 veterans on their waiting list, and an estimated 640 WWII heroes die each day. The organization needs our support to make these dreams happen for our heroes. You can make a donation here.
If you or your loved one is a war veteran, you can apply for an Honor Flight trip here.
Shepherd’s Centers of America
A life with meaning and purpose: this is what Shepherd’s Centers of America wants for our country’s seniors.
Shepherd’s Centers of America is a network of faith (representing diverse religions) and community-based organizations on a mission to offer various opportunities for seniors to help and integrate into their communities through their programs and services. These programs are centered around learning opportunities, transportation, support, volunteering, and health and wellness.
Oasis Lifelong Adventure
Oasis is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to helping seniors age in a healthy way and lead meaningful lives by encouraging them to get involved in their local communities. Through various incentives, Oasis promotes an active lifestyle, continuous learning, and volunteering opportunities.
While Oasis Centers are only active in several cities across the country, you can find additional tutoring opportunities through Oasis Tutors as well as technology classes through partner organizations.
The lists above include just several of the most prominent US charities and organizations dedicated to supporting and improving the lives of elderly citizens.
If you or a loved one are in need of support, you can also search for options in your state. In addition to those organizations that operate across the country, there are plenty of other smaller ones that support local senior communities through various incentives and services.
Be aware of potential scams and of the fact that not all charities are equally effective. In order to check various charities, you can use resources such as:
Searching on these websites is also a good way to start looking for charities that offer specific services in your state, as this way you will rest assured that you can choose a trustworthy organization.