The Area Agency on Aging of West Central Arkansas is a non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors. More than 800 Area Agencies on Aging are located throughout the United States. These non-profit agencies were established by an amendment to the Older American’s Act in 1974 to “monitor, assess, coordinate and pool” all resources, public and private, which provide services to seniors, the growing population of persons over 60 years of age.
Each state determines exactly how its agencies operate. In Arkansas there are eight Area Agencies on Aging (AAA’s). All were originally part of the eight Planning and Development Districts in Arkansas ( PDD’s). After a few years, however, it was clear that the AAA’s with the emphasis on social and human services, required different administrative styles than the PDD’s whose purpose centered on economic development. The State General Assembly passed legislation in 1979 making the Area Agencies separate entities from the PDD’s, and the law was signed by then Governor Bill Clinton. Each of the eight AAA’s in Arkansas was separately incorporated as a non-profit agency under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code.
The first, and still the most visible, project of the Area Agency on Aging of West Central Arkansas was to establish local Senior Adult Centers throughout the region. These centers meet the needs of seniors for nutrition (Congregate meals, Meals on Wheels), but also for socialization (fellowship). They are focal points in each community. Malvern has the distinction of having the first center in this region. Each Senior Center is run by a local sub-contractor and monitored by the AAA.
Also, early on in the development of AAA’s in Arkansas, it was apparent that there was an unmet need for in-home care for seniors. All of us are happier if we can age in our own homes. Many older persons, however, go into nursing homes, not for medical reasons, but simply because they cannot perform the basic function of daily living (dressing, bathing, meal preparation, etc).
When no other agencies were available to provide this type of care, the AAA’s in Arkansas began a pilot project to provide personal care services themselves. Today, in-home care is the largest program of the Area Agency on Aging of West Central Arkansas.
As the needs of seniors change, this organization has also changed to serve their needs. It continues to adapt to the needs of the many “faces” of aging. The Area Agency on Aging staff and volunteers are indeed “The Senior Specialists” of West Central Arkansas.