National Council On Aging

Improving the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling.

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About the National Council on Aging 

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) was the first charitable organization that focused on advocating for older Americans. Founded in 1950, NCOA works to bring together various charitable organizations, businesses, and governmental organizations to work toward helping older Americans receive better benefits, improve job security, improve health and health services, and increase their ability to live independently.

Since its inception, NCOA has started numerous associations, councils, coalitions, and initiatives aimed at helping the elderly gain access to health care and Medicare, address problems such as falling, give daytime care to those in need, and provide financial planning tools. They’ve launched countless programs for the elderly, including laying the groundwork for the acclaimed program Meals on Wheels.

Why We Chose to Feature This Organization

We recognize that no single charity can solve a large problem alone, which is why we created charity portfolios. In putting together charities whose work benefits each other, problems are looked at and solved in their entirety. The National Council on Aging may not solve every problem seniors face, but it sure comes close. They help seniors check their eligibility for benefits for food, medicine, and rent. They give financial advice relating to budgeting, saving, avoiding scams, and securing a job. They focus on senior-only problems, such as falling. They advocate for government policies including the Older Americans Act.

The National Council on Aging’s work is profound and robust. They help seniors gain and maintain economic security and independence, and age in a healthy manner. They give advocates the tools to speak up for seniors, and they push for policies that would enrich seniors’ lives. They hit the mark for many Simply Virtuous categories, including advocacy, policy and legislature, working with the private sector, and generating awareness. Their breadth of work is creating social change for seniors across the United States, and our elderly portfolio wouldn't be complete without them.

Older Americans Act

Passed in 1965, the Older Americans Act was the first federal initiative created to provide comprehensive services for older adults (aged over 60). These services included funding for nutritional services, caregiving services, disease prevention and health promotion, senior centers, job training, and more.  Since its creation, many new associated acts have been implemented, including the Age Discrimination Act.

The act requires reauthorization from time to time. The 2006 Older Americans Act reauthorization expired in 2011 and was not granted a renewal until five years later in 2016.   The National Council on Aging worked with local and national partners to develop recommendations for the reauthorization of the act. Their advocacy work included five concept papers chronicling economic security, elder rights advocacy, healthy aging, aging services research and development, and revitalizing senior centers.  They also issued two briefs, provided two testimonies, and published four research papers in support of the act’s reauthorization. We will summarize a selection of their publications below.

A Blueprint for Improving the Economic Security of Older Adults: Recommendations for the Older Americans Act

At the time of publication (2011), over 13 million older Americans were considered “economically insecure”, meaning they were living on $22,000 a year or less. Because of their limited funds, seniors often had to choose between food, medicine, or paying their bills. This dire situation is why the Older Americans Act (OAA) is so crucial. The act provides a vehicle for delivering key social, nutritional, and home and community-based services to seniors. Many economically disadvantaged seniors rely on its existence for theirs. The NCOA developed a plan to strengthen the OAA, which included three main objectives:

  1.    Establish a goal of economic security for seniors
  2.    Better coordinate existing resources at the federal, state, and local levels.
  3.    Evaluate and replicate economic casework strategies

Strengthening the Voice of Older Adults and the Aging Network: A Vision for the Reauthorized Older Americans Act

The NCOA believes in the power of advocacy, and that in addition to generating awareness, it has the power to impact OAA program offerings, deliveries, and outcomes. Although the OAA uses the term “advocacy” numerous times in its text, no clear definition for exactly what is meant by advocacy is stated. Advocacy can mean many different things depending on who you talk to and in what context it is used. Therefore, the NCOA recommends defining the scope of advocacy as follows:

  •     One-to-One Advocacy: Focusing on working that empowers and improves access for vulnerable seniors
  •     Systems Advocacy: Removing barriers and/or improving access to specific programs and/or processes
  •     Policy Advocacy: Impacts broad policies and guidelines at federal and state levels

For each of these advocacy types, the same principles should be implemented:

  1.    Empower older Americans
  2.    Integrate advocacy provisions and functions
  3.    Provide ongoing training and education opportunities
  4.    Accountability
  5.    Independence

In sum, the NCOA made seven specific recommendations for the reauthorization of the OAA. These recommendations were partly adapted in the reauthorization that took place in 2015 and are summarized below:

  1.    Define advocacy to help engage the aging network. As previously mentioned, a comprehensive definition of advocacy was missing from the original OAA, and its implementation would provide guidance to individuals and organizations about their advocacy requirements.
  2.    Provide needed support for education and training on advocacy.
  3.    Create advocacy reporting measures. Stakeholders should be involved in the development of advocacy reporting measures. The reporting measures should show how advocacy is being conducted throughout the aging network and how it improves the lives of seniors with strong economic and social needs.
  4.    Impose oversight and enforcement of advocacy provisions.
  5.    Strengthen legal assistance.
  6.    Ensure that advocacy functions within the OAA are protected against undue interference.
  7.    Strengthen the transparency requirements for state units on aging and area agencies on aging annual and long-term plans and funding disbursements. Stakeholders should be required to give input as to how funds are distributed, who receives priority in different situations, and how aging networks are run within the state.

Falls Prevention Awareness Day

1 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older falls every year. This is a serious problem, as falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors. Falls can have lasting effects, impacting everything from a senior’s mobility to their independence. This is why the NCOA created their National Falls Prevention Resource Center. They support the implementation of falls prevention programs and communicate the best tools and practices available for preventing falls.

In addition to their resource library filled with materials regarding falls prevention, the NCOA leads an annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day, in which national, state, and local partners come together to educate the public and health professionals about the consequences of falling, share fall prevention strategies, and advocate for the use of fall prevention programs.

In order to make this day a success, the NCOA provides numerous sources of information and materials to be used by participants. These include promotional materials such as photos, videos, handouts, infographics, and PowerPoint presentations. Those who are interested in participating or supporting the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day can search their database of partners and programs available nearby. For those who wish to host their own event, NCOA offers tips for hosting locations, including local community centers, churches, fitness centers, health fairs, senior centers, and senior meal sites.

Abbott Nutrition

Within their Center for Healthy Aging, NCOA and Abbott Nutrition teamed up to create the Community Malnutrition Resource Hub. Abbott Nutrition is a subsect of Abbott Laboratories, a Fortune 500 multinational healthcare company.

Malnutrition isn’t just a problem that children in faraway developing countries face. Indeed, malnutrition is a big problem for older adults in the United States, with up to 1 out of every 2 older Americans being at risk for malnutrition. Within healthcare settings, approximately 60% of older adults in hospitals and 35-85% of residents in long-term care facilities are malnourished.

Malnourishment can exacerbate chronic conditions that many older Americans face. It can also weaken their immune systems, making them more susceptible to illnesses that are easily transmitted in care facilities and hospitals. Numerous programs already exist that work to help older adults receive proper nutrition, however many seniors, caregivers, doctors, and hospitals do not know that these programs exist or do not know how to access them. This is where NCOA and Abbott Nutrition come into play.

NCOA and Abbott Nutrition have created a resource hub for malnourishment programs. This hub has three main sections: resources that help people better understand malnutrition in the elderly, a database of existing organizations and programs organized by community and federal programs, national organizations, international programs, and awareness program, and assessment and implementation tools.

Build A Knowledge Base

This section provides reports, fact sheets, toolkits, infographics, trainings, and policy information regarding malnourishment in older Americans.  Topics include SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) enrollment information and initiatives, nutritional tips for those suffering from malnourishment, tips for staying strong as you age, and interdisciplinary approaches to nutritional care from hospital admission to discharge. The sources range from NCOA and Abbott Nutrition to the AARP Foundation and registered dietitians.

Use Existing Organizations and Programs

This section includes an extensive list of federal assistance programs, state and local/community-based organizations, and international efforts to combat malnutrition among the elderly. Important federal programs such as SNAP, Meals on Wheels America, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) are linked and explained in depth. Having one location with all of this information is incredibly beneficial to those who struggle to know that help exists or how to enroll in such programs.

Implement Assessments and Tools

This section provides crucial tools that can be used by individuals and healthcare providers. Checklists for healthcare professionals are provided that help identify whether an individual is at risk of malnourishment. There are various assessments and screening tools, most of which consider information such as recent weight loss, recent intakes, BMI, age, and mobility in determining if an individual is considered nourished, at risk of malnutrition, or already malnourished. For the patients, educational materials are provided which cover the importance of good nutrition after leaving the hospital, basic nutritional tips for eating healthily after 50, and information about nutritional product reimbursements paid for by their healthcare.


National Council On Aging

James Firman

CEO and President

Experience and Education
  • Founder and CEO of United Seniors Health Cooperative
  • Doctorate in Education and a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University
  • Compensation

National Council On Aging

Howard Bedlin

Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy

Experience and Education
  • Deputy Director of government affairs at the National Association for Home Care
  • Law degree and Master of Public Policy Science from the University of Maryland

National Council On Aging

Donna Whitt

Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Experience and Education
  • Chief Financial Officer for Children’s Defense Fund
  • Master of Business Administration from George Mason University
  • Bachelor of Business Administration from the College of William and Mary

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