Last month, we celebrated a huge victory --  the re-authorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), which we had been working on and advocating for over the past 5 years.

We have come a long way in the years since the act was first passed in 1965 to address a lack of social services for older people in their communities. But the underlying message of the Act’s passage is still relevant: we must do all we can to support people as they age, so that their later years have purpose and meaning and they can live life to the fullest.

We still have a ways to go, but LeadingAge members are doing their part.

Over the course of our history, LeadingAge has had great leaders who have fought to ensure older adults age with dignity.

One such leader is Lloyd Lewis, an extraordinary visionary who created a movement in the 1970s to eliminate restraints for residents in nursing homes. Founding Executive Director of the Kendal Corporation, a LeadingAge member, Lloyd passionately pursued “Untie the Elderly”, a campaign aimed at providing alternatives to tying patients down.

In 1987, LeadingAge (then the American Association for Homes and Services for the Aging) honored Lloyd with its top award, the Award of Honor, for his commitment to and compassion for older adults. 2 years later, he spoke before the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, where he was again honored for his tremendous vision. Committee member, Senator John Heinz stated: 

“[Lloyd Lewis & Kendal] are committed to preserving senior citizen’s basic rights and providing quality life and health care.” He continued, “I think you can say that theirs is literally a cutting edge attempt to achieve quality care by striking a new balance between absolute safety and respect for the individual’s dignity and human rights.”

Leading by example, Lloyd Lewis eliminated restraints in Kendal properties 16 years before he appeared before the Special Committee on Aging.

In honor of reauthorizing the Older Americans Act and the lasting legacy of “Untie the Elderly”, I’d like to dedicate this year’s Older Americans Month (OAM) to Lloyd.

It is heartening to realize that, as a nation and as providers, we have come a long way in setting a new norm for services and supports. And yet, we cannot rest on our laurels as there are still many who are facing their later years without the services they need, living in environments that inhibit their ability to live with dignity.

With the unwavering vision -- and courage -- of people like Lloyd Lewis and the drive to continually re-imagine what it means to grow older, LeadingAge will pursue setting new norms that we hope will be deeply embedded in the OAA the next time it is reauthorized.