After World War II, average life expectancy increased; the number of Americans above 65 years old grew; and national organizations representing the elderly proliferated.
The Older Americans Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 14, 1965, originated in the House of Representatives on January 27, 1965, when John E. Fogarty (D-RI) introduced H.R. 3708. Fogarty’s bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor and reported to the House on March 9. It passed the House on March 31 on a 395 to 1 roll call vote. H.R. 3708 established an Administration on Aging (AoA) in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) that was directed by a Commissioner on Aging appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. AoA was a clearinghouse, coordinator and provider of grants to state agencies and public and nonprofit agencies serving the elderly.
When H.R. 3708 was introduced in the Senate, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, chaired by Lister Hill (D-AL). Anthony Celebrezze, Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), responded to the chair’s request for a report on the bill and supported its provisions with one exception. Celebrezze objected to a provision of H.R. 3708 that had been added to the bill by a floor amendment and that gave states the final say on certain grants awarded by HEW to state agencies or to public or private nonprofits serving the elderly. The Senate committee reported a bill conforming to the administration request and on June 16, the Senate passed H.R. 3708 by a roll call vote of 72 to 5. On July 6, 1965, the House agreed to the Senate’s version of H.R. 3708 leaving the final decision on grants to HEW.