National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the National Survey of
Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP)

General Questions About the Survey

1. What is the Administration for Community Living (ACL)/Administration on Aging (AoA) and why does ACL/AoA do this survey?

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) /Administration on Aging (AoA) is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . ACL funds Older Americans Act home and community-based services that Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) provide to people age 60 and older. These services include Congregate and Home-Delivered Meals, Transportation, Case Management, Homemaker Services, and the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

ACL uses the results of the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP) to evaluate the effectiveness of the Older Americans Act programs it funds. Continued funding of these programs will occur only if surveys like this one are done and the results show that the programs are of significant benefit to senior citizens nationwide. ACL/AoA previously received a commendation for the quality of its evaluation process, in part because of the results of the previous surveys that have been completed.

State and area agencies on aging and local service providers produce successful results year in and year out. We need the data from these surveys to demonstrate this success through measurable performance outcomes. Our surveys are an important part of this effort.

2. What is Westat, and who is authorizing Westat to do this Survey?

Westat is a nationally known social science research firm, specializing in conducting surveys and studies for agencies of the U.S. government and for state governments. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) contracted Westat to conduct this survey. Area Agencies on Aging selected to participate in the survey received an official notification from Vicki Gottlich, Director, Center for Policy and Evaluation, ACL, introducing the National Survey and indicating that Westat is authorized to conduct the survey. If you have concerns or questions, you may contact Mr. Terrill Curtis at or Westat at

3. How was my Area Agency on Aging selected?

There are over 600 Area Agencies on Aging in the United States, and it would be very costly and time-consuming to contact all of them and all of their clients. Therefore, each year that we conduct the survey, we contact a random sample of the AAAs, making sure that we get agencies of various sizes and from different geographic regions. Although we select a random sample of AAAs, it is highly probable that some agencies may be selected every year.

4. Does the survey evaluate individual Area Agencies on Aging or providers?

No. The survey is designed to evaluate the overall effectiveness of ACL/AoA programs. We do not attempt to evaluate the performance of any individual AAA, provider, or any specific client/agency interaction. Westat does not give the federal government the names of individual clients or any information about how well a particular agency is performing.

5. How are individual clients selected for the survey?

Westat uses a special computer program to randomly select approximately 80 -100 clients, who received one of the six services being studied during the past year, from each participating Area Agency on Aging.

6. How many people will be interviewed, and what kinds of questions will be asked?

Westat hopes to complete interviews with at least 6,000 clients of AAAs around the U.S. We will conduct in-depth interviews about the services they received during the past year. We will ask about how often they used a given service, how they felt about different aspects of the service, how it met their physical, social, and emotional needs. Examples of the types of questions asked can be found in the data files available for prior years' National Survey of OAA Participants available on the Administration Community Living's Aging Integrated Database (AGID) Aging's Aging Integrated Database (AGID) website.

7. How are program participants or clients interviewed for the National Survey? Do they need to use a computer or to come to the AAA offices or fill out forms?

The NSOAAP is conducted exclusively by telephone. Westat has a Telephone Research Center (TRC), where trained interviewers make the calls and conduct the interviews, aided by a computer system that dials the numbers and displays the questions to be asked, given a specific client's age, the service he/she has used, etc.

8. Can clients request a written copy of the survey to complete, instead of giving information on the phone?

Unfortunately, the survey is not available in written form. The main reason is that it is based on rather complex decision logic, where the questions that are asked depend on things like the client's characteristics (age, gender, etc.), the specific services he/she uses, and his/her responses to previous questions. Also, we want all clients to complete the survey in the same way – not some by phone and some by mail – and we believe that a phone interview is easier for most seniors to complete than a written one would be. Prior to a call from an interviewer, clients will be mailed an official letter from the Administration for Community Living, explaining that the survey is legitimate and encouraging their participation. It will give them phone numbers they can use to get more information about the survey, and urge them to participate in this important undertaking. Clients also have the option of calling the Telephone Research Center directly to be interviewed at a time convenient for them.

9. What if a client has health problems or does not speak English?

If a client has health problems that would make it difficult to participate in an interview, a relative or close friend may answer the survey questions for the client. For non-English speaking clients, bilingual interviewers can conduct the telephone survey in Spanish. For all other languages other than English or Spanish, a relative or close friend may answer the survey questions for the client.

Questions About Privacy and Confidentiality

1. How are client privacy and client confidentiality protected?

For this study, Area Agencies on Aging will assist the Administration for Community Living (ACL)/Administration on Aging (AoA) by providing information that will allow ACL, through its contractor Westat, to survey elderly individuals and caregivers who receive services funded under the Older Americans Act (OAA) in order to assess OAA programs.

Under the Older Americans Act (OAA), ACL , through its contractor Westat, has the authority to survey and collect information from OAA clients and is required to assess program results in this manner by both the OAA and the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.

We are committed to maintaining the confidentiality of individuals surveyed, and are required to do so by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) . The personally identifiable information that is being collected is solely for the purpose of contacting individuals to conduct the surveys. The data, reports, and data systems from the survey will not be traceable to any individual. In addition, because there is no request for medical records information regarding any individual included in this effort, the privacy requirements stemming from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) related to the release of medical information are not applicable.

2. Will the Area Agencies on Aging or the service providers be able to see how individual clients answered the questions?

No. All information provided by clients participating in the survey is combined with responses from other persons. No answers are ever identified as coming from a particular person or attributed to a specific AAA or service provider. Answers remain anonymous and no identities are revealed.

3. Are clients' Social Security numbers used?

Absolutely not! Westat will NEVER request client Social Security numbers, from AAAs or from individual clients who participate in the survey. They are not required for any aspect of the survey.

4. Do you ask for date of birth?

Yes, we ask for clients' date of birth to be sure that the clients qualify to take part in the survey. Knowing the date of birth also helps us distinguish between two clients with the same name. However, if a client does not wish to provide this information, it is acceptable if he/she gives only the year of birth or his/her current age.

5. How can a service participant or client be sure that a caller is really from Westat, and not a scammer or telemarketer?

Westat interviewers will state their first AND last names. If a client wants to verify any information, he/she may tell the interviewer to call back later, and immediately contact their AAA or a toll-free number at the Administration for Community Living, which is 888-204-0271. The client may also ask the interviewer for his/her telephone number and call him/her back. The interviewer will give a special Westat phone number that is answered by Westat staff who can link callers with interviewers. Westat interviewers are required to read a confidentiality statement to the clients, even if the clients say they don't need it. Finally, our interviewers will NEVER ask people to give Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or similar information, and they will NEVER attempt to sell products or services.