Last year, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA), signed into law in July 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Over the past 50 years, the OAA has provided a national network of aging services and funding that helps older adults to live and thrive!
While the OAA is just one act, there are many services authorized to maintain the health and well-being of millions of seniors age 60 and older. Some of those vital services are home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, preventive health services, transportation, job training and elder abuse prevention.
Title V of the OAA authorizes community service employment and training opportunities. The Community Service Employment Program, also known as the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), receives almost 25% of total OAA funding and is designed to help low-income, unemployed adults over the age 55 find part-time jobs. Participants in SCSEP gain work experience in a variety of community service activities at non-profit and public facilities, including schools, hospitals, day-care centers and senior centers.
In 1989, NAPCA became the first national SCSEP grantee to serve Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) older adults. We currently cover 18 counties in 7 states with 10 project offices, serving almost 1,200 older adults a year. In this past performance year (2014-2015) alone, NAPCA SCSEP participants provided a total of 674,779 community service hours to the community. The value of SCSEP participants’ combined community services is about $15.5 million.
With the re-authorization of the OAA still pending approval by Congress, it’s important that we, as the community, highlight the many successes of the services contained in the OAA to ensure we can still adequately care for our increasingly aging communities. We highlight the following success story or Mr. Chien Han Chang:
Mr. Chien Han Chang, who is 65 years old, was born in Hong Kong and raised in Taiwan. After immigrating to San Francisco, CA at age 60, he soon discovered the difficulties of finding employment in America because of his age and limited English proficiency. Fortunately, Mr. Chang discovered the SCSEP program and was enrolled as a participant assigned to the Mercy Housing Management Group as a trainee, doing janitorial work.
For two years, Mr. Chang excelled at his job placement, exemplifying a strong work ethic and further developing his social and interpersonal skills and English proficiency. This qualified him for a number of different positions with Mercy and was then hired full-time as a desk clerk at Leland Polk Senior Community – managed by Mercy Housing Management Group. As a desk clerk, Mr. Chang’s main responsibilities include not only maintaining the safety of residents but serving as a vital conduit to communicate the concerns of residents to management using his bi-lingual ability. Mr. Chang is so pleased that his age was not a deterrent in finding and obtaining full-time employment and becoming financially independent from Government benefits.
Mr. Chang is by no means the only success story of the SCSEP Program but one of the many that exemplify how important the program is to older adults and the community.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.