Senior Service America, Inc. (SSAI) adopted its current name in 2002. But its roots go back to 1961.
In that year, the AFL-CIO and three of its largest national unions formed an advocacy organization called the National Council of Senior Citizens for Medicare. The organization lobbied for a national health care program for the elderly until Congress passed Medicare as well as the Older Americans Act in 1965.
Three years later, President Lyndon Johnson expanded Operation Mainstream, a demonstration program in his War on Poverty that provided opportunities for low-income older Americans to serve their communities.Under this expansion, Senior Service America was selected to receive a grant from the Department of Labor, along with AARP, Green Thumb (now Experience Works), and the National Council on Aging. Since receiving that first grant in 1968, SSAI has been awarded funding each consecutive year from the Department of Labor to operate the Senior Community Service Employment Program. SSAI has competed successfully in each of the three national SCSEP grant competitions conducted by DOL.
As of 2016, SSAI operates SCSEP in 13 states with an annual grant award of more than $49 million.
The second largest SCSEP grantee in the country, SSAI is unique among SCSEP grantees in that it operates its programs exclusively through partnerships with local sub-grantees, and always has. Currently included among its diverse network of 65 subgrantees are local workforce development agencies, area agencies on aging, community action agencies, faith-based organizations, and community colleges. Most joined the SSAI subgrantee network more than ten years ago, including some since 1968.
SSAI selects subgrantees that have deep and wide ties to their community, which enables SSAI to leverage extensive local resources for the benefit of older workers. This also allows the organization to operate with exceptionally low administrative costs.
SSAI is viewed as a thought leader in programs and policies concerning employment and civic engagement among older Americans, particularly those with less income and education. SSAI consistently seeks to add value to the federal dollars it receives by developing innovative projects (such as its Digital Inclusion Initiative) and by sharing best practices. SSAI also initiates and supports studies related to low-income older Americans and works closely with researchers in gerontology, workforce development, and adult learning.