The Census Is Coming! Here’s What the Aging Network Needs to Know
Friday, February 14, 2020
by: Theresa M. Grant, Director, Prince George’s County, Maryland AAA

Section: USAging Blog

It’s that time again! By law, every 10 years the U.S. Census Bureau counts every household and person living in the United States. We all know that Census data is important, but for AAA staff and other professionals in the Aging Network, Census data is particularly important because it serves as the basis for the distribution of funding for many federal programs, including the Older Americans Act.

Ensuring an accurate Census count is also critical to the ability of the Aging Network to conduct outreach and deliver services that support the needs of older adults in communities around the country. The more informed individuals are about the facts related to the Census, the more likely they are to fully participate. And because we have access to many individuals and households in our communities and we are seen as a friendly, reliable and trusted resource on federal initiatives such as the Census, the Aging Network is in a unique position to assist in ensuring a complete count.

Communities and consumers must be educated on the need for the Census, how it impacts each household—and the laws that ensure that information provided via the Census is confidential. Privacy is a critical concern for many older adults, and it is essential that consumers are reassured that under the law, the Census Bureau is required to keep respondent information confidential. In fact, according to a fact sheet, the 2020 Census and Confidentiality, the U.S. Census Bureau will never share a respondent’s personal information with immigration enforcement agencies like ICE, law enforcement agencies like the FBI or police—or allow Census data to be used determine eligibility for government benefits.

Communities with a significant immigrant population(s) are often undercounted by the Census, reducing the amount of federal funding across a multitude of programs that they receive. As Area Agencies on Aging and Title VI Native American programs across the country, the programs and services we provide rely significantly on federal funds to meet the challenging and diverse needs of our communities. For every person not counted, communities lose thousands of dollars in federal funding over a 10-year period. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in fiscal year 2015, 132 federal programs used Census data to distribute more than $675 billion in funds. n4a estimates that the U.S. Administration on Aging distributed approximately $1.3 billion in Older Americans Act funding to states and AAAs programs around the country in FY 2019—based on each state’s Census data. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2030, 73 million, or one in five, people in America will be 65 or older. As we witness the unprecedented growth of the older adult population across this nation, it is imperative that AAAs and Title VI programs across the nation step up and do our part to ensure a full and complete count. It is particularly important that we focus increased efforts on diverse and underserved communities, who are often undercounted but rely on federal programs.

April 1, 2020 is Census Day. Every household will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 census. There are three ways in which households can respond: online, by phone or by mail. Through our senior centers, nutrition programs, community awareness activities, cultural events, social media and other actions, we must encourage all our residents to fully participate in the 2020 Census. We must ensure that everyone stands up and is counted.

The U.S. Census Bureau has great tools that can assist you in obtaining a complete count in your community. Listed below are a few useful websites that can assist you and your community in reaching a complete count. As a network, let’s do our part to ensure a complete count in 2020. Our future depends on it—and so do many of the older adults we serve.   

Helpful Resources from the U.S. Census Bureau:
Resources from n4a: