This glossary is meant to compile key terms, policies and stakeholders in the field of aging.  Have comments, edits, or contributions? Please comment below!

Aging in Community

The ‘Aging in Community’ movement calls for ‘community-based people powered institutions and models for cooperation…that overcome the multi-billion dollar aging-industrial complex.’  It aims to foster control over life and elements of choice in death, by enabling individuals at any stage of life to cultivate the complex systems necessary for well-being as they age. The Aging in Community model builds on the Aging in Place movement, but calls for a broader engagement of community members and communal structures in supporting neighbors as they age.  To start we’re compiling links and resources related to Aging in Community.

Aging in Place

‘Aging in Place’ refers to the choice to remain in one’s home rather than moving to a formal retirement home, assisted living facility, or nursing home. The Aging in Place movement started with the Beacon Hill Village, a membership-based initiative in a Boston neighborhood that provides services needed for older residents to be able to stay in their homes.  Beacon Hill has become a prototype for a network of dozens of community ‘villages’ across the U.S., and ignited a new industry for home modifications and other services supporting people to stay in their homes longer. It is also at the root of the broader ‘Aging in Community‘ movement, which supports alternative models of community support for aging family and neighbors.

AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons)

AARP is a US-based non-governmental organization engaged in advocacy, research, and service provision for Americans aged 50 and over. According to its mission statement, AARP is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people age 50 and over … dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all as we age,” which “provides a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members.”  Learn more…

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

The term “activities of daily living,” or ADLs, refers to the basic tasks of everyday life, such as eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and transferring. When people are unable to perform these activities, they need help in order to cope, either from other human beings or mechanical devices or both.   Learn more…

Accountable Care Organizations

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, who come together voluntarily to give coordinated high quality care to their Medicare patients.  The goal of coordinated care is to ensure that patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors. Learn more from… & NPR…

Adult Day Care

Adult Day Care Centers provide supervised social activities for clients with medical, physical, cognitive and other disabilities.  These are also known as Caregiving Respite Programs

Adult Day Health Centers (ADHCs)

ADHCs are generally state licensed facilities that provide supportive health services in a supervised social environment. Staffing usually includes a registered nurse; social worker; physical, occupational and speech therapists; and recreational staff.

Advance Directive

An Advance Directive is a written statement in which an individual states preferences for medical care in case he or she is not able to make those decisions in case of a serious illness or accident. Advance Directives include Health Care Proxies and Living Wills (see below)  Learn more from the American Bar Association

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Health Care for America Act (or HR 3962) was a bill crafted by theU.S. House of Representatives in November 2009 as part of President Obama’s Health Care Reform Initiative. Known as the “House bill,” it was the House of Representative’s chief legislative proposal during the health reform debate, but the Affordable Health Care for America Act as originally drafted never became law. Instead it was replaced by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which was signed into Law on March 23, 2010. PPACA reforms certain aspects of the private health insuranceindustry and public health insurance programs, increases insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions, and expands access to insurance to over 30 million Americans.  Learn more from the White House &

Aging Services Network

The National Aging Services Network consists of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; the Administration on Aging; The State Units on Aging (coordinated by the National Association of State Units on Aging (NASUAD); the Area Agencies on Aging (coordinated by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a); Tribal organizations and local service provider organizations.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Learn more from the Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is a non-profit organization engaged in direct care, support and research for Alzheimer’s disease patients and their caregivers. Learn more

Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress. Learn more from & the American Bar Association

American Society on Aging (ASA)

The ASA is a national association of over 5,000 members seeking to support the commitment and enhance the knowledge and skills of those who seek to improve the quality of life of older Adults and their families. The membership of ASA is multidisciplinary and inclusive of professionals who are concerned with the physical, emotional, social, economic and spiritual aspects of aging. Learn more

Area Agencies on Aging

Area agencies on aging are the local arms of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), tasked with providing services and resources for older adults, particularly those who are economically insecure.  Find a local Area Agency on Aging

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted Living facilities – aka Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly – are housing complexes that provide room, meals, and varying levels of assisted care – including administering medication, supporting the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), and providing meals, laundry, and recreational opportunities. Licensing and requirements for Assisted Living facilities varies by state. Many retirement communities offer separate units that are licensed as assisted living.


Caregiver is a broadly defined term for someone who provides practical, physical, spiritual, emotional, and/or, financial support for someone who is ill.  This can include managing or coordinating care, with intermittent direct care. Caregiving is generally broken down into two main categories: formal or paid caregiving, and informal or family caregiving.

Care Managers/Management

Care management is the practice of  engaging a single specialist, often a social worker, to plan and coordinate some or all of the health and social services needed by a patient.  Some case management programs are public funded. Other services are  offered by private practitioners that charge a fee-for-service rate.

Caregiving Respite Programs

See Adult Day Care

Case Managers/Management

See Care Managers/Management

Changing Aging, the brainchild of leading geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas, is a Blogstream that aims to use social media tools to help those who believe in a better old age communicate their message.  The bloggers aim to reclaim media channels from large companies that presented a ‘uniformly declinist view of aging.’ gives bloggers the power to create their own stories, share ideas and connect with like-minded people who care about changing aging. Learn more & watch Dr. Thomas’s awesome TED Talk: Elderhood Rising

Civic Ventures

Civic Ventures is a a nonprofit think tank on boomers, work and social purpose that supports Encore Careers, orjobs that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact for older adults. Learn more

Chronic Illness

A chronic illness is a sickness or disability that persists for a long period of time, whether or not it causes death. Top 10 Chronic Conditions for people 65+: Arthritis, Hypertension, Hearing Impairment, Heart Disease, Stroke, Cataracts, Orthopedic Deformations, Chronic Sinusitis, Diabetes, Visual Impairment, Varicose Veins. At least 80% of older Americans are living with one chronic illness and 50% have two.

Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Program (CLASS Act)

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (or CLASS Act) is a U.S. federal law, enacted as Title VIII of thePatient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The CLASS Act would have created a voluntary and publiclong-term care insurance option for employees,  but in February 2012, after a long battle in Congress, it was repealed by as being fiscally unviable.  Learn more


Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.  Co-housing solutions have been adopted with great enthusiasm by the Aging in Community movement.   Learn more

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

CCRCs are residential living facilities that offers options of independent living, assisted living, and nursing home assistance at the same site. They often offer packages of services and an easy transition process between the different categories of housing.


In some states, conservatorship is granted when a special agent (often a family member) is appointed to make decisions concerning a person who no longer has the capacity to make legal decisions. There are two types of conservatorship: of person and of estate.  Learn more from

Defined Benefit Plan

A defined benefit retirement plan is a type of pension plan in which an employer promises a specific monthly benefit in retirement, generally predetermined by a formula based on the employee’s earnings history, tenure of service, and age, rather than based on investment returns of retirement funds.

Defined Contribution Plan

A defined contribution plan is a type of retirement plan in which the amount of the employer’s annual contribution is specified.  Only employer contributions to the account are guaranteed, not the future benefits, which fluctuate according to investment earnings. In the U.S., IRAs, 401(k)s, and 403(b)s are all examples of defined contribution plans.


Dementia is not a specific disease, but rather an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies. Dementia is often incorrectly referred to as “senility” or “senile dementia,” which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging. Read more from the Alzheimer’s Association

Disability Insurance

A type of insurance that compensates for 45 – 60% of one’s total wages should they become sick and/or injured and therefore unable to work.


Dorot USA is a non-profit organization considered as leader in mobilizing volunteers of all ages to improve the lives and health of the elderly,  addressing the challenges of an aging society. Dorot’s mission is to alleviate social isolation among the elderly and provides services to help them live independently as valued members of the community. Learn more

DNR (“Do Not Resuscitate”)

A DNR is a legal order to respect the wishes of a patient not to undergo CPR or Advanced Cardiac Life Support if their heart stops or they stop breathing. The request is usually made by the health care proxy.

Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse refers to the physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, isolation, neglect, or financial abuse of a person over 65 or a dependent person.

Elder Law / Elder Law Attorney

Elder law is the field of law that deals with the complex legal issues concerning the elderly, such as estate planning, access to benefits, conservatorship, guardianship, etc. Find an Elder Law Attorney in your area with


A specific form of caregiving where the care recipient is an older person, regardless of sickness or injury.  Learn more


Eldertopia is a phrase coined by leading geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas to refer to the radical reinterpretation of longevity that makes elders (and their needs) central to our collective pursuit of happiness and well-being. Learn more

Encore Careers

Encore careers are second careers that engage people approaching or post-retirement age to  combine personal fulfillment, social impact and continued income, enabling people to put their passion to work for the greater good. Encore careers are the brainchild of Civic Ventures founder Marc Freeman. Learn more

Estate Planning

Estate planning refers to the process of planning for the present and future use or dissolution of assets – particularly the creation of a will.

Experience Corps

Experience Corps is a non-profit organization that links older volunteers with volunteering opportunities. Experience Corps members tutor children who need basic literacy skills; mentor students who count on them for guidance; partner with classroom teachers to make schools better places to learn; and help create healthier communities. Learn more

Family & Medical Leave Act

The FMLA, enacted in 1993, states that an employer must allow their employee 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period:

  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious

  • health condition;

  • For the birth and care of the employee’s newborn child;

  • For the placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;

  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Learn more from the Department of Labor

Family Caregiver

see caregiver

Family Caregiver Alliance

A nonprofit organization that offers programs at national, state and local levels to support and sustain caregivers.  Learn more

Family Health Care Decisions Act

New York State’s Family Health Care Decisions Act establishes the authority of a patient’s family member or close friend to make health care decisions for the patient in cases where the patient lacks decision-making capacity AND did not leave prior instructions or appoint a health care agent. Read more…

Generations United

Generations United is a national membership organization focused on improving the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs, and public policies.  GU represents more than 100 national, state, and local organizations representing more than 70 million Americans. Since 1986, Generations United has served as a resource for policymakers and the public on the economic, social, and personal imperatives of intergenerational cooperation.  Learn more


The medical specialization focusing on treating health and diseases associated with older age


A physcian who specializes in the practice of geriatrics

Gerontology / Gerontologist

The scientific study of the process of aging / a specialist in the science of gerontology

Gerontological Society of America

The GSA is the national professional organization of American Gerontologists.  Learn More

Greenhouse Project

The Green House Project is a national non-profit organization dedicated to creating alternative living environments to traditional nursing home care facilities. The project creates ‘caring homes for meaningful lives” for elders where residents have private rooms and baths, can move freely through the home, build deep knowing relationships with each other more and even participate in preparing their own meals. It is based on a philosophy seeking to reverse the “enforced dependency” of life in a traditional nursing home by creating small intentional communities of 7-10 elders designed to foster late-life development and growth. The project was founded by Dr. Bill Thomas.  Learn more


See Conservatorship

Health and Aging

The National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging offers a useful A-Z Health Topics IndexMore Links..

Health Care Agent

A health care agent is a person who accepts the power to make health care decisions for another individual.

Health Care Financing Administration

The HCFA is the federal agency that administers the Medicare, Medicaid, and Child Health Insurance programs.

Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is a legal document that delegates decision-making authority to a health care agent, in the event that the patient be unable to make decisions for himself or herself.  Learn more  & more from the American Bar Association

Health Care Power of Attorney

See Health Care Proxy

Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act

The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 is a law that was enacted by the 111th U.S. Congress in order to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act was attached as a rider).

Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP)

HICAP is a state-administered program that provides counseling on health insurance and social service access, options, and benefits.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

An HMO is a company that provides managed care for health insurance contractors in coordination with health care providers. The Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973 required employers with 25 or more employees to offer federally certified HMO options if the employer offers traditional healthcare options. HMOs cover only care rendered by doctors and other professionals who have agreed to treat patients in accordance with the HMO’s guidelines and restrictions.

Home Health Aid

A Home Health Aid is a professional who provides personal care and help with monitoring medications, physical mobility, and other assistance for a disabled elderly person.  Home health aids are currently at the center of a minimum wage labor rights controversy.

Hospice Care

Hospice care is designed to help terminally ill patients live at home and express and accept their feelings regarding their medical condition. Hospice can also help families care for a loved one, manage practical tasks, and deal with stress.

Housing Modifications

Housing modifications that make homes more accessible for elderly or disable residents include grab rails, access ramps, bathroom modifications, and other features designed to help disabled individuals remain safely in their homes.

Independent Living

Independent living is simply a housing arrangement designed for residents aged 55 or over who are able to complete the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), but who may hire in-home help for additional assistance. Independent living includes: senior apartments; retirement communities; continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs); and subsidized senior housing. Learn more from

Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA)

An IRA is a form of defined contribution retirement plan that provides certain tax advantages for retirement savings in the U.S. The term encompasses both ‘individual retirement accounts’ (trust or custodial accounts set up for the exclusive benefit of taxpayers or their beneficiaries) and ‘individual retirement annuities (by which taxpayers purchase an annuity contract or an endowment contract from a life insurance company.  Types of IRAs include:

  • Roth IRA - Contributions are made with after-tax assets, all transactions within the IRA have no tax impact, and withdrawals are usually tax-free.

  • Traditional IRA - Contributions are often tax-deductible (often simplified as “money is deposited before tax” or “contributions are made with pre-tax assets”). All transactions and earnings within the IRA have no tax impact.  Withdrawals at retirement are taxed as income (except for those portions of the withdrawal corresponding to contributions that were not deducted). Depending upon the nature of the contribution, a traditional IRA may be referred to as a “deductible IRA” or a “non-deductible IRA.”

  • SEP IRA - A provision that allows an employer (typically a small business or self-employed individual) to make retirement plan contributions into a Traditional IRA established in the employee’s name, instead of to a pension fund in the company’s name.

  • SIMPLE IRA - a Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees that requires employer matching contributions to the plan whenever an employee makes a contribution. The plan is similar to a 401(k) plan, but with lower contribution limits and simpler (and thus less costly) administration. Although it is termed an IRA, it is treated separately.

  • Self-Directed IRA - a self-directed IRA that permits the account holder to make investments on behalf of the retirement plan.

  • Rollover IRA - A transfer of funds from a retirement account into a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. This can occur either through a direct transfer or by a check, which the custodian of the distributing account writes to the account holder who then deposits it into another IRA account.

  • Conduit IRA - A traditional IRA that holds only assets that were distributed from a qualified plan. Typically, the intention of using this type of plan is to store assets until they can be rolled into  a new employer’s qualified plan.

Informed Consent

Informed consent refers to the requirement that medical practitioners inform patients (or health care proxies) of all the potential benefits, risks and alternatives involved with a medical procedure or course of treatment, and obtain a patient’s written consent to proceed.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are the complex skills needed to successfully live independently, including: financial management; transportation; shopping; meal preparation; communication; medication management; housework and basic home maintenance.

In-home Support Services

In Home Support Services is a California (other states?) State program that operates at the county level in association with the Department of Social Services to provide home attendent care for elderly or dependent adults who qualify for Medicare


LeadingAge is a U.S.-based non-profit organization engaged in advocacy, leadership development, and applied research and promotion of effective services, home health, hospice, community services, senior housing, assisted living residences, continuing care communities, nursing homes, as well as technology solutions, to seniors, children, and others with special needs. LeadinAge membership includes non-profits, states, businesses, research institutes, consumer organizations, foundations, and a broad global network of aging services organizations that reach over 30 countries. Learn more

Living Will

A living will is a written, legal document that indicates the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures a patient wishes to receive (or not receive) if he or she is not able to make medical decisions – such as mechanical ventilation/breathing, nutritional and hydration assistance (tube feeding),  dialysis, or resuscitation. In some states, living wills may be called health care declarations , health care directives, or advance directives.  While living wills are legal documents, different states have specific requirements about the terms and conditions under which they are binding.
Learn more from the American Bar Association

Long-Term Care

Long-term care refers to the medical and social services required on an ongoing basis by an older or dependent adult who is no longer able to live independently – as opposed to rehabilitative services, which are short-term and intended to help patients regain the capacity to function independently.  Long-term care can include ongoing in-home care, adult day care, or residential services.  Learn more

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is a specific financial product designed to defray the costs of ongoing long-term care.  Learn more from the Long-Term Care Insurance National Advisory Center & more links

Managed Care

Managed Care refers to the integration of health care delivery and financing through plans such as HMOs and PPOs. Managed Care Plans attempt to control what is spent on health care by monitoring the services provided by doctors and other medical professionals, attempting to limit referrals to costly specialists and requiring pre-authorization for hospital care and other services.


Medicaid is the federally funded program that provides health insurance for low-income and low-asset individuals and families. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments but administered by states. Learn more

Medicaid Redetermination

According to 42 CFR 435.916, the agency must redetermine the eligibility of Medicaid recipients, with respect to circumstances that may change, at least every 12 months. Medicaid recipients must submit a comprehensive application verifying that their status still qualifies for the benefits.

Medicaid Spenddown

Spending down is the process of spending or disposing of assets so to the point that an individual or couple qualifies for Medicaid.

Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST)

MOLST is a New York state initiative to facilitate end of life medical decision-making by providing a standardized form to be used with terminally ill patients who can be expected to die within six months, whether or not treatment is provided. Read more on New York State MOLST; Massachusetts MOLST


Medicare is a federally funded, state-administered program that provides health insurance for people:

  • 65 or older

  • under 65 with certain disabilities

  • with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Medicare is comprise of four parts:

Medicare Part A (Basic Hospital Insurance)

  • Helps cover inpatient care in hospitals

  • Helps cover skilled nursing facility, hospice, and home health care

Medicare Part B (Paid Medical Insurance)

  • Helps cover doctors’ and other health care providers’ services, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, and additional home health care

  • Helps cover some preventive services to help maintain your health and to keep certain illnesses from getting worse

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

  • Health plan options run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies

  • Medicare Advantage Plans are a way to get the benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B

  • Most Medicare Advantage Plans cover Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D)

  • Some Medicare Advantage Plans may include extra benefits for an extra cost

Medicare Part D (Stand-Alone Prescription Drug Coverage)

  • Helps cover the cost of prescription drugs

  • May help lower your prescription drug costs and help protect against higher costs in the future

  • Run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies

Learn more from, the Medicare Rights Center, and more

Medicare Rights Center

The Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling, advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives. Learn more

Medical Power of Attorney

See Health Care Proxy

MIT Agelab

The MIT AgeLab was created in 1999 to invent new ideas and creatively translate technologies into practical solutions that improve people’s health and enable them to “do things” throughout the lifespan. Equal to the need for ideas and new technologies is the belief that innovations in how products are designed, services are delivered, or policies are implemented are of critical importance to our quality of life tomorrow. Based within MIT’s School of Engineering’s Engineering Systems Division, the AgeLab has assembled a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, business partners, universities, and the aging community to design, develop and deploy innovations that touch nearly all aspects of how we will live, work and play tomorrow.Learn more

National Council on Aging

NCOA is a national organization dedicated to improving the health and economic security of millions of struggling older adults.  NCOA is engaged in advocacy in relation to policymakers and service providers. Headquartered in Washington, DC, NCOA brings together various organizations, businesses, and governmental organizations to work toward securing jobs, benefits, health, independent living, and active living among older Americans. Learn More

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a)

n4a is an umbrella organization of the local Area Agencies on Aging. Through advocacy, training and technical assistance, n4a support sthe national network of 629 AAAs and 246 Title VI programs and advocates on behalf of member agencies for services and resources for older adults and persons with disabilities. Read more

National Association of States United for Aging and Disability (NASUAD)

NASUAD represents the nation’s 56 state and territorial agencies on aging and disabilities and supports visionary state leadership, the advancement of state systems innovation and the articulation of national policies that support home and community based services for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Learn more

National Institute on Aging

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of National Institutes of Health, leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. NIA is the primary Federal agency supporting and conducting Alzheimer’s disease research. Learn more

Naturally Recurring Retirement Community (NORC)

Naturally Recurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) is the name for apartment buildings where older adults have become the predominant residents. Originating in New York City in the 1980′s, the NORC model was cultivated as a community-based social service paradigm, to efficiently promote healthy aging, independence, and community building. There are now more than 40 NORCs in 25 states.  Learn more and more links

Neighborhood/Household Models

The Neighborhood/Household models are distinguished by small groups of elders and care partners living within a physically-defined environment within a nursing home that honors the daily rhythm of each individual. Employee care partners are consistently assigned so they can develop meaningful relationships with the elder care partners and work as a strong directed team. The models require changes in organizational practices, physical environments, new care partner structures and development of strong, caring relationships at all levels.

Nursing Home

Often called a  Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) , a nursing home is a state licensed medical facility providing services for rehabilitiation and/or long-term care.

Older Americans Act

The Older Americans Act of 1965 was the first federal level initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults. It created the National Aging Network comprising the Administration on Aging on the federal level, State Units on Aging, and Area Agencies on Aging at the local level. The network provides funding – based primarily on the percentage of an area’s population 60 and older – for nutrition and supportive home and community-based services, disease prevention/health promotion services, elder rights programs, the National Family Caregiver Support Program, and the Native American Caregiver Support Program.

Palliative Care

Palliative Care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.  Learn more from

Palliative Care Information Act

The Palliative Care Information Act is a New York State legislation that requires physicians and nurse practitioners to offer terminally-ill patients information and counseling concerning palliative care and end-of-life options. Under the law, information and counseling concerning palliative care and end-of-life options must be offered only to patients with an illness or condition that is reasonably expected to cause death within six months. Read more…

Patient Bill of Rights

patients’ bill of rights is a list of guarantees for those receiving medical care. It may take the form of a law or a non-binding declaration. Typically a patient’s bill of rights guarantees patients information, fair treatment, and autonomy over medical decisions, among other rights. In the United States there have been a number of attempts to enshrine a patient’s bill of rights in law, including a the McCain-Edwards-Kennedy Patients’ Bill of Rights that was rejected by Congress in 2001.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is aU.S. Federal statute signed into law by President Obamaon March 23, 2010. The law (along with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) is the principalhealth care reform legislation of the111th U.S. Congress. PPACA reforms certain aspects of the private health insurance industry and public health insurance programs, increases insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions, expands access to insurance to over 30 million Americans,and increases projected national medical spending while lowering projected Medicare spending.

Patient Representatives

A patient representative provides support to patients regarding concerns or complaints about the quality of care or services provided by a health care provider or medical facility.

Patient Self-Determination Act

The Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990 requires health care providers to provide information about advance directives to adult patients upon their admission to the healthcare facility.


A pension is a fixed sum paid regularly to a person following retirement from service. A pension created by an employer for the benefit of an employee is commonly referred to as an occupational or employer pension. Pensions may also be funded by labor unions, governments, or other organizations.

Point of Service

Point of service (POS)  is a provision that allows patients in certain managed care plans to seek treatment outside the plan in order to have more choice of doctors.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) or letter of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter.

Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Paradigm program is designed to improve the quality of care people receive at the end of life. It is based on effective communication of patient wishes, documentation of medical orders on a brightly colored form and a promise by health care professionals to honor these wishes. Read on…


Pro-aging is a general term for the movement that advocates embracing the aging process rather than succumbing to the “anti-aging” industry. It is also the name of a 2007 Dove product line and ad campaign targeting older women.

Pro-Aging Trance

“Pro-aging Trance” is a term coined by British Geriatrician Aubrey de Grey to describe “the impulsion to leap to embarrassingly unjustified conclusions in order to put the horror of aging out of one’s mind”. According to de Grey, the pro-aging trance or “pro-aging edifice” is a psychological strategy which people use in order to cope with aging, and which is rooted in the belief that aging is immutable and unavoidable.

Residential Care Facility

See Assisted Living

Respite Services

Respite services provide support for family members or other caregivers who are providing care for someone with a serious medical condition or dementia. Respite is designed to provide a break from caregiving responsibilities and ensure that the caregiver takes care of himself or herself. Respite care may involve a brief stay in a residential facility, use of a Senior Day Program, or services by an in home attendant.

Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP)

RSVP is a government-administered program and America’s largest volunteer network for people age 55 and over. Learn more


Saging is a term coined by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in his 1997 Book ‘From Aging to Saging,’ referring to the practice of “spiritual eldering,” which stems from a process of “life repair” that includes paying attention to intergenerational relationships and honoring memories.

Senior Medical Patrol Centers

The SMP programs, also known as Senior Medicare Patrol programs, help Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries avoid, detect, and prevent health care fraud. In doing so, they not only protect older persons, they also help preserve the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Read more…

Skilled Nursing Facility

A Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) is a state licensed medical facility providing services for rehabilitiation and/or long-term care (often called Nursing Homes)

Social Security

Social security is primarily a social insurance program providing social protection or protection against socially recognized conditions, including poverty, old age, disability, unemployment and others. Learn more

Spending Down

See Medicaid Spendown

State Units on Aging

State Units on Aging are part of the National Aging Network established by the Older Americans Act of 1965, and are tasked with coordinating the service provision and advocacy initiatives of the local Area Agencies on Aging. The State Units on Aging are in turn overseen by the National Association of States United for Aging and Disability

Subsidized Senior Housing

Subsidized senior housing complexes are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and urban Development (HUD) for low-income seniors, and often have long waiting lists.

Supplemental Needs Trust

A Supplemental Needs Trust is a trust created for a chronically and severely disabled beneficiary which supplements government benefits such as Medicaid rather than diminishing such benefits.

Supplemental Security Income

State units on aging are part of the National Aging Network, and support the efforts of the local Area Agencies on Aging.


A trust is a relationship whereby property (real or personal, tangible or intangible) is legally held by one party for the benefit of another.

Villages / Village Movement/ Village Network

A Senior Village is a membership-based initiative that provides services needed for older residents to be able to stay in their homes.  The Village Model was created by the Beacon Hill Village, which became a prototype for a network of dozens of community ‘villages’ across the U.S., and ignited a new industry for home modifications and other services supporting people to stay in their homes longer. The Village Movement became almost synonymous with the Aging in Place movement.  It is also at the root of the broader ‘Aging in Community‘ movement, which supports alternative models of community support for aging family and neighbors.


401(k) is a type of retirement savings account in the United States, which takes its name from subsection 401(k) of the Internal Revenue Code (Title 26 of the United States Code). 401(k) contributors can begin to withdraw funds after reaching the age of 59½ years.  401(k)s were first widely adopted as retirement plans for American workers, beginning in the 1980s. The 401(k) emerged as an alternative to the traditional retirement pension, which was paid by employers. Employer contributions with the 401(k) can vary, but in general the 401(k) had the effect of shifting the burden for retirement savings to workers themselves.


403(b) plan, also known as a tax-sheltered annuity, is a tax-advantaged retirement savings plan available for public educationorganizations, some non-profit employers (only Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) organizations), cooperative hospital service organizations, and self-employed ministers in the United States. It has tax treatment similar to a 401(k) plan, especially after the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. Simply put, employee salary deferrals into a 403(b) plan are made before income tax is paid and allowed to grow tax-deferred until the money is taxed as income when withdrawn from the plan. Beginning in 2006, 403(b) and 401(k) plans may also include designated Roth contributions, i.e., after-tax contributions, which, if certain requirements are met, will allow tax-free withdrawals. Primarily, the designated Roth contributions have to be in the plan for at least five taxable years.

*The following sites were referenced in compiling this glossary:

The Bay Area Institute on Aging

Elder Law Answers


Strength For Caring



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