Today marks the 17th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court decision. In Olmstead v. L.C. the Court ruled that people who need assistance with activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, dressing and walking cannot be unnecessarily segregated. They must receive services in the most integrated setting possible.
This decision, based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, has great implications for older adults.
All people should have the opportunity to live, work, retire, and contribute to diverse neighborhoods and communities, regardless of age or disability. The Olmstead decision has helped make that vision a reality for older adults and people with disabilities alike by shaping policy that ultimately provides services. For example, in the 2006 and again in 2016 Congress reauthorized the Older Americans Act, each time helping reshape the systems that provide long-term services and supports to include more home-and-community-based services. As a result, more older adults now get help with dressing, grocery shopping, and other routine tasks, making it possible for them to continue living in their homes.
This is just one example of a shift in funding, policy, and attitudes toward community living that reflects the spirit of the Olmsteaddecision. As a result, more and more Americans are living in the settings they choose and are engaging in their communities throughout all stages of their lives.
Olmstead is for all of us, and with an estimated 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day, it has never been more important to the aging community. I hope you will join me in adding the anniversary of the Olmstead decision to your calendars of dates to celebrate.
For more information on how Olmstead helps older adults:
ADA at 25: Aging Advocates Celebrate Partnership And Progress: Issue Brief from the Justice in Aging Journal on the impact of the Olmstead decision and the Americans with Disabilities Act on older adults.
Promoting Community Living for Older Adults Who Need Long-term Services and Supports (PDF, 299KB): Issue Brief from the Center for Policy and Evaluation, Administration for Community Living