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Glossary of aging terms and acronyms

Confused by all the acronyms and terms in the field of aging? This glossary should help you decipher them.


Area Agency on Aging


The capacity of everyone regardless of age or ability to be included in all physical structures, programs, and means of communication (e.g., websites, e-mail, telephone).


Adult Care Food Program


Administration for Community Living (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

Active Living Community

A community designed to provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. These are typically built for adults age 50+.

Activities of daily living (ADLs)

The functional ability of a person. The primary ADLs are bathing, eating, grooming, dressing, walking, and toileting. See also IADLs.


Aged and Disabled Adult Medicaid Waiver


Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative


Activities of Daily Living


Aging and Disability Resource Center

Adult day program

Structured programs with social activities and health-related and rehabilitation services for older adults who are physically or emotionally disabled and need a protective environment.


Ambassadors for Aging

Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC)

One-stop shop that provides information and assistance to people who need public or private resources, professionals seeking assistance on behalf of their clients, and people planning for their future long-term care needs.

Aging in place

The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.


Stereotyping and prejudice against individuals or groups because of their age.


Agency for Health Care Administration


Assisted Living for the Frail Elderly Medicaid Waiver


Assisted Living Facility


Alzheimer’s Disease Medicaid Waiver

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Signed into law in 1990, this act prohibits discrimination based on disability in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.


Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of the Elderly


Agency for Persons with Disabilities


Adult Protective Services


Aging Resource Center

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)

A planning body of governments which plans, coordinates, and advocates for a development of a comprehensive service delivery system to meet the needs of older people in a specific geographic area.


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Assisted living

A facility that bridges the gap between independent living and living in a nursing home or skilled-care facility. Staff provides assistance with activities of daily living in a small group home or a larger facility.

Asset-based or strengths-based model

A model of care in communities that acknowledges the vitality, wisdom, experience, and value of all residents regardless of ability. Residents are respected and their desire to remain independent and make their own choices is encouraged.

Baby Boomer

A person born between 1946 and 1964.


Bureau of Economic and Business Research


An individual who helps a person with his or her activities of daily living. Caregivers can be professional staff, family members, or both.


Comprehensive Assessment and Review for Long-Term Care Services


Community Care for the Elderly


Consumer Directed Care


Client Information and Registration Tracking System

Civic engagement

Working to make a difference in the civic life of communities through individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.


Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (formerly Health Care Financing Administration) or CARES Management System

Community health center (CHC)

An ambulatory health care program (defined under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act) usually serving a catchment area that has scarce or nonexistent health services or a population with special health needs. Also known as a neighborhood health center. CHCs attempt to coordinate federal, state, and local resources in a single organization capable of delivering both health and related social services to a defined population.

Community long-term care (CLTC)

Services provided in-home and at the community level, including personal care, residential care, home health, adult day, and private duty nursing services.

Continuing-care retirement community (CCRC)

A created community that offers a continuum of housing, services, and health care—independent living, assisted living, nursing care—on one campus or site.

Continuum of care

Services available to assist older adults over their lives and during varying abilities and disabilities, from well to frail.

Council on aging

A private nonprofit organization or public agency that serves as a focal point on aging and which traditionally provides supportive services to older adults.


Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly Program

Elder-friendly community

A community that facilitates aging in place by addressing basic needs, promoting social and civic engagement, optimizing physical and mental health and well-being, and maximizing independence for those who are frail or have disabilities.


Emergency Support Function


Geographic Information System


A family where grandparents, great-grandparents, other relatives, or close family friends are raising a child because the biological parents are unwilling or unable to do so. Also known as kinship care.


Home and Community-Based Services


Home Care for the Elderly


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act

Federal law that gives an individual rights over his or her health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive this information.


Health Maintenance Organization

I & A/R

Information and Assistance / Referral


Instrumental Activities of Daily Living. Activities required for independent living, such as shopping, housekeeping, cooking, taking medications, and driving.


Institutional Care Program

Independent Living

A residential living facility for older adults that may or may not provide supportive services. Generally referred to as elder or senior housing in the government-subsidized environment, independent living also includes rental-assisted or market-rate apartments or cottages where residents usually have complete choice in whether to participate in a facility’s services or programs.


A program, initiative, or activity in which older adults and children and/or youth explore their commonalities and differences, creating mutual understanding and strengthening community.

Lifelong Learning

A process of accomplishing personal, social, and professional development throughout the lifespan of individuals in order to enhance the quality of life of individuals and their communities. Lifelong learning also refers to educational classes, usually affiliated with a college, community college, or university, designed by or for older adults, and often taught by older adults.

Livable community

A term that is used to describe the factors that add up to a community’s quality of life—including the built and natural environments, economic prosperity, social stability and equity, educational opportunity, access to health care and other services, access to transportation, and cultural, entertainment, and recreation possibilities.

Long-term care facility

A residence that provides a variety of services to inhabitants 24 hours a day, such as a room, meals, recreational activities, and assistance with activities of daily living. This term is often used interchangeably with a skilled nursing facility, or nursing home.


Local Services Programs


Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program


Medicare Beneficiary Outreach and Assistance Program


The largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for individuals and families with limited income. It is jointly funded by the states and federal government and managed by the states. Among those served are eligible low-income parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.


A health insurance program administered by the U.S. government covering people who are either age 65 and over or who meet other special criteria. It can cover hospital, medical, and prescription drug expenses.


Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act


A term used to describe several generations living together under one household. AARP has defined a multigenerational household as one in which three generations are living under the same roof as well as instances where the householder lives with their parents or with grandchildren.


National Alliance on Mental Illness


National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities

Naturally occurring retirement community (NORC)

A building or geographic area in which a significant proportion of older adults reside in housing that was not designed or planned with seniors in mind, but where people have aged in place.


National Family Caregivers Support Program


Nutrition Services Incentive Program


Older Americans Act


Office of the Attorney General

Older Americans Act (OAA)

Federal law that authorizes policies, spending, and mechanisms such as the Administration on Aging that serve older adults. It is reviewed and reauthorized approximately every 10 years.


A representative of a public agency or a nonprofit organization who investigates and resolves complaints made by or on the behalf of older individuals who are residents of long-term care facilities.


Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly

Palliative Care

Specialized care focused on relieving the pain, symptoms, and stress of serious illness.

Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)

A program model centered on the belief that it is best for the well-being of seniors with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible.


Planning and Service Area


Respite for Elders Living in Everyday Families


Request for Proposals


Seniors and Law Enforcement Together


Senior Community Service Employment Program


Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders


Senior Medicare Patrol


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Social Security Administration (SAA)

A federal government agency that administers programs benefiting older adults, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), old age and survivors’ benefits, and disability.


State Public Guardianship Office


Supplemental Security Income

State Office on Aging

An agency of state government designated by the governor and the legislature as the focal point for all matters related to the needs of older persons within the state. Currently, there are 57 State Offices on Aging located in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories.


State Unit on Aging

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

A federal program that pays monthly checks to people in need who are 65 years or older and to people in need at any age who are blind or disabled. The purpose of the program is to provide sufficient resources so that anyone who is 65, blind, or disabled can have a basic monthly income. Eligibility is based on income and assets. SSI is administered nationally and locally by the Social Security Administration.

Universal design

An orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility to the experience of the user. It is a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication, and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design.


United States Department of Agriculture


Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Services Program


Victims of Crime Act

Note: Many sources have been used to compile this list, and there may be more than one “definition” for a word/term.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control

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