Older Americans Act:

Promising Practice in Information and Referral Services

PEMD-91-31: Published: Aug 8, 1991. Publicly Released: Aug 8, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined information and referral programs serving elderly populations funded by the Older Americans Act of 1965.

GAO found that: (1) officials at 8 of the 12 programs considered hiring or contracting for minority staff necessary to interact with members of their target populations; (2) the programs studied used various mass media, printed materials, and personal contact to advertise information and referral services; (3) 5 of the 12 programs used automated systems to maintain and update resource files, which information and referral workers could use to access information on services and providers; (4) 6 of the 12 programs indicated that they provided services at places where the elderly lived or frequently visited; (5) some programs' data were inaccurate and data collection was inconsistent among the programs; (6) the Administration on Aging (AOA) did not routinely ask for data on potentially successful initiatives or formally disseminate information about promising practices among programs; (6) AOA lacked adequate resources to perform many of the missions and responsibilities assigned to it under the act; and (7) data limitations precluded evaluating the success of the 12 programs, but according to program directors the initiatives had succeeded in providing increased information and referral to target populations.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In reauthorizing the Older Americans Act, provisions are being proposed for strengthening information and referral services, but not specifically for providing incentives to collect data on promising practices. The GAO report was released after the reauthorization process began.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider whether AOA should provide an incentive for programs to collect and provide to AOA data that could allow for evaluation and dissemination of information on the success of promising initiatives. Such an incentive might be modeled on the Program Effectiveness Panel of the U.S. Department of Education.


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