Glossary of Aging Related Terms

The following glossary is a compilation of frequently used terms in the field of aging and age related issues. 

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): Activities people usually do for themselves in the course of a normal day including bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, walking, using the telephone, taking medications and other personal care activities.

Adult Day Care: Adult Day Care Centers offer social, recreational and health-related services to individuals in a protective setting who cannot be left alone during the day because of health care and social need, confusion or disability. (914) 813-6300

Adult Protective Services (APS): Services that protect the rights of frail older adults by investigating cases of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation as mandated by law. (914) 995-2259

Advance Directive: Legal document allowing people if they become incapacitated to give others legally binding instructions about their preference regarding health care decisions. Types of advance directives include documents such as the living will and durable power of attorney for health care. 1-877-574-8529

Area Agency on Aging: A local or regional agency, funded under the federal Older Americans Act through the state unit on aging, that plans and coordinates various social and health service programs for persons 60 years of age and older. The national network of AAA offices consists of 655 approved area agencies on aging (not including Native American Aging Programs). The Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services is an AAA. (914) 813-6300

Assisted Living Facilities: A facility that provides a combination of housing and personalized health care in a professionally managed group setting designed to respond to the individual needs of persons who need help with activities of daily living. The facility provides care to residents who cannot live independently, but individuals do not require 24-hour nursing care.  (914) 813-6300

Assistive Technology: Any service or tool that helps the elderly or disabled do the activities they have always done but must now do differently. These tools are also sometimes called “adaptive devices.” Such technology may be something as simple as using a walker to make it easier to move around or an amplification device to make sounds easier to hear when talking on the telephone or watching television. (914) 813-6300

Care or Case Management: Case managers work with family members and older adults to assess, arrange and evaluate supportive efforts of seniors and their families to remain independent. (914) 813-6442

Caregiver: Can be either informal (unpaid) or formal ( usually paid). An informal caregiver is a person who provides care and assistance with various activities to a family member, friend or neighbor. Formal caregivers are volunteers or paid providers who are usually associated with an agency or social service system. Roughly 75 percent of all caregiving for older persons is provided by informal caregivers, e.g., family, friends and neighbors. (914) 245-9167

Caregivers Coaching Program (L3C): Volunteers are recruited to coach caregivers and give them information about the various aspects of caregiving.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): A federal organization that oversees the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Its primary goal is to ensure effective, up-to-date health care coverage and to promote quality care, with little or no co-payment, for beneficiaries. It also provides information to help consumers in choosing a variety of service providers through its website at  (914) 813-6100

Chore Service: Chore services may be sought by persons who are physically unable to perform tasks such as heavy cleaning, minor repairs or yard work. (914) 813-6300

Cluster Services: Services provided for a group of people. Services arranged in this manner are usually economical and benefit both the provider and the recipients. (914) 813-6300

Community Based Services: Services designed to help older and disabled people remain independent and in their own homes. They include activities that may be provided by senior centers, transportation, home-delivered meals or congregate meals, visiting nurses and/or home health aides, adult day care and homemaker services. 1-800-899-1479

Congregate Meals: These meal programs provide older individuals with free or low-cost, nutritionally sound meals served five days a week in easily accessible locations. Besides promoting better health through improved nutrition, meal programs provide daily activities and socialization for participants which help reduce the isolation of old age. For nutrition site information (914) 813-6300

Continuing Care Retirement Community: A community offering multiple, continuing levels of care (independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care) – in different facilities within the same area or campus. This gives residents the opportunity to remain in the same community if their needs change. These communities provide residential services (meals, housekeeping, laundry), social and recreational services, health care, personal care and nursing care. CCRCs require payment of a monthly fee and, possibly, a lump-sum entrance fee. (914) 813-6300

Consumer protection:  A form of government regulation which protects the interests of consumers. (914) 995-2155

Continuum of Care: A term for the entire spectrum of specialized health, rehabilitative and residential services available to the frail and chronically ill, specifically, home services, independent living, assisted living and nursing home care. (914) 813-6300

Custodial Care: Non-skilled, personal care that does not include services typically provided by a doctor and/or nurse. It includes help with activities of daily living such as, bathing, dressing, eating, transferring, ambulation and toileting. (914) 813-6300

 Crime Busters: County elder fraud protection program that provides tips on how to stay safe and avoid financial exploitation. (914) 995-2190

Dementia: A term describing a group of diseases (including Alzheimer’s Disease) characterized by memory loss and other declines in mental and sometimes emotional functioning. (914) 253-6860

De-Cluttering Service: Service to help people organize and/or get rid of unwanted items in the home. 

 Disability: A limitation in physical, mental or social activity.  There are varying types (functional, occupational, learning), degrees (partial, total) and durations (temporary, permanent) of disabilities. (914) 995- 2958

Elder Abuse:  A term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Law varies from state to state, but broadly defined, abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, neglect and abandonment. (914) 813-6436 After Hours: (914) 995-2099

Elder Abuse Prevention Programs: Programs designed to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of senior citizens. Allegations are investigated by highly trained protective service specialists and Intervention is provided in substantiated cases. (914) 813-6436 After Hours: (914) 995-2099

Eldercare Locator: A nationwide information and referral service sponsored by the federal Administration on Aging – also available on-line ( 1-(800) 677-1116

Emergency Response System (ERS): A call button – usually worn as a necklace by an older individual- which can be pushed to reach family, friends or help in case of an emergency.  Emergency Response Systems can be purchased or rented. (914) 813-6300

Energy Assistance: Programs that provide low-income elderly homeowners and renters with funds to help pay home utility and heating costs. Eligibility requirements may vary from state to state.  (Con Edison Concern Program 1-(800) 404-9097); (914) 813-6300

Friendly Visitors and Telephone Reassurance: These programs, which have different titles in different communities, provide regular personal or telephone contact for older persons who are homebound or live alone. Usually a volunteer provides the service. Besides developing friendships, perhaps a more important aspect of these programs is the volunteer’s ability to identify needs of the individual as they occur and notify those who can help.  DOROT 1-800-499-0940

Geriatrics: A branch of medicine focusing on the physiology and ailments associated with the aging process.

Geriatrician: A physician who is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine of Family Practice in the care of older people.

Geriatric Care Managers:  Specifically trained professional in geriatric care management, who provide case management services to older individual clients on a fee-for-service basis.  Association of Geriatric Care Managers in Greater New York  

Gerontology: The study of the physical, psychological and social aspects of aging.

Grandfamilies: Families where grandparents or other relatives are primarily responsible in caring for a child or children who lives with them, often referred to as kinship care.  (914) 813-6393  – Foster Grandparents (914) 592-5600 Ext. 114

Guardian: An individual appointed by a court of law to manage a person’s financial and/or personal affairs because the court has found that the person is not competent to manage his or her own affairs. A conservator is similarly appointed, but only for financial affairs. 

Guardianship: The process where an individual is appointed by a court of law to manage a person’s financial and/or personal affairs when people are not able to or  not competent to manage their affairs on their own.

Health-Care Proxy: A power of attorney that allows an agent to make health care decisions for an individual who is  incapable of making them. (914) 813-6300

Home-Delivered Meals: Sometimes referred to as “meals on wheels,” home-delivered meals are hot and nutritious meals delivered to medically  homebound seniors 60 years of age and older, who are unable to prepare their own meals and have no outside assistance. (914) 813-6300

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A health-care organization offering a range of health services to its members for a set rate that requires members to receive care only for health care professionals who are part of the organization’s selected network of providers. Medicare information. Line (914) 813-6100

 Homebound: The term refers to a person who is generally unable to leave the house, or, if the person does leave home, it is usually only for a short time (e.g. for medical appointments). Individuals may attend adult day programs, religious services or occasional special social outings and still be considered homebound

Home Health Agency: An organization providing medically skilled home-care services, such as skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and personal care by home health aides. (914) 813-6300

 Home Health Care:Home health care is recognized as an increasingly important alternative to hospitalization or care in a nursing home for patients who do not need 24-hours-a-day professional supervision. Many people find it possible to remain at home for the entire duration of their illness or at least to shorten their hospital stay. In many cases readmission to the hospital can be prevented or delayed. A variety of health services are provided in a home health care program in the patient’s home, under the direction of a physician. (914) 813-6300

Homemaker Service: A service providing assistance with meal preparation, shopping, light housekeeping, laundry and other tasks that enable  clients to continue to live in their own homes. (914) 813-6300

Home Modification: Adaptation and/or renovation to the living environment intended to increase ease of use, safety, security and independence. There are some local, state, federal and volunteer programs that provide special grants, loans and other assistance for home remodeling, repair and modification. (914) 813-6300

Independent Living: A living arrangement that maximizes independence and self-determination, for people with disabilities who live in a community instead of a medical facility. 

Independent Living Facility: Rental unit wherein services are not included as part of the rent. Rather, services may be available and purchased by residents for an additional fee.

Information and Referral: Information specialists are available to provide assistance and linkage to available services and resources. (914) 813- 6300

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL): Household/independent living tasks that include using the telephone, taking medications, money management, housework, meal preparation, laundry and grocery shopping.

Intergenerational: Programs and projects occurring among generations. (914) 813-6300

Irrevocable Burial Account: When determining eligibility for Medicaid, the state allows consumers to set aside money in trust or with a funeral director for burial expenses as part of a pre-paid burial plan.

Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO): An independent, non-profit organization that evaluates and accredits health care organizations and programs in the United States.

Kinship Navigator Programs: State or local programs that link grandparents and other relatives raising children to information, support services and available benefits.  (914) 813-6393

Legal Assistance: Legal advice and representation is available to persons aged 60 and over for certain types of legal matters including government program benefits, tenant rights and consumer problems. (914) 949-1305

Life-Long Learning: The term recognizes that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom, but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations.

Living Will: A document stating a person’s preferences for future medical decisions, including the withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatments; such as artificial nutrition and hydration or the use of equipment, such as ventilators and respirators. (914) 949-1305

Long-Term Care: A general term that describes a range of medical, nursing, custodial, social, and community services designed to help people with chronic health impairments or forms of dementia.  (914) 813- 6300

Long-Term Care Insurance: This type of insurance policy is designed to cover long-term care expenses in a facility or at home. For information about LTC insurance (914) 693-9386

Long-Term Care Ombudsman: State and local long-term care ombudsmen who, work cooperatively with nursing homes and board and care facilities to improve the quality of life for residents. They serve as patient rights advocates, investigating and negotiating resolutions to concerns voiced by residents in matters of resident services and care.  (914) 813-6300

Managed Care: A method of organizing and financing health care services that emphasizes cost-effectiveness and coordination of care. Managed care organizations receive a fixed amount of money per client/member per month (this is called capitation). The system generally requires members to receive treatment from an approved list of health care facilities and physicians agreeing to provide services at set rates. Medicare Information Line (914) 813-6100

Meals-on-Wheels: Also know as home-delivered meals that provide hot meals, prepared to government specifications, delivered to homebound persons who cannot prepare their own food. (914) 813-6300

Medicare: This is the national health insurance program for eligible people 65 and older and some disabled individuals. Part A covers hospital costs. Part B covers doctor bills and other medical costs. Part C covers Medicare Advantage Plan, such as HMO’s, and Part D covers prescription drugs.  (914) 813-6100  Toll free # 1-800-772-1213

Medicaid: Medicaid is a health benefit program administered by states for low-income people who also meet other eligibility requirements. The health insurance program is financed by the federal and state governments. Medicaid may also pay for nursing home care if the individual’s income and assets are within certain limits. (914) 813-6300

Medigap: Medigap is designed specifically to supplement and complement Medicare’s benefits by filling in some of the gaps of Medicare coverage. Medigap insurance policies are non-group policies that may pay for Medicare deductibles, prescription drugs or other services not covered by Medicare. (914) 813-6300

Medicaid Waiver Programs: Medicaid programs that provide home-care and community based alternatives to nursing home care. These programs have the potential to reduce Medicaid costs by providing services in innovative ways, or to people not covered under the traditional Medicare Program. They are often approved on an individual basis, and generally have limited slots available. (914) 813-6300

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a): The membership organization for the 655 area agencies on aging and a voice in the nation’s capital for the 243 Title VI Native American aging programs in the U.S.  Headquartered in Washington, D.C., this association advocates on behalf of all area aging agencies and Native American tribal units to ensure that the necessary resources are available to older Americans and those who serve them. (202) 872-0888

Needs Assessment: An evaluation of a person’s physical and/or mental status.  It is used to create a care plan and to make decisions about the possible need for care.

Nursing Home: A facility licensed by the state to offer residents personal care as well as skilled nursing care on a 24-hour basis.  Nursing homes provided nursing care, personal care, room and board, supervision, medication, therapies and rehabilitation. Rooms are often shared and communal dining is common.  (914) 813-6300

NY Connects: A local program that provides easy access to information and help for people who are exploring long-term care options. (877) 914-4040

Older Americans Act: Federal legislation specifically addressing the needs of older adults. It provides funding for aging services such as home-delivered meals, congregate meals, senior centers, employment programs to the independence and quality of life for older Americans and those who care for them.  Creates the structure of the federal Administration on Aging, State Units on Aging, and local agencies that oversee aging programs.   (914) 813-6300

Ombudsman: Trained professional or volunteer who advocates for the rights of older people receiving long-term care services ( in a nursing home facility or at home) and who investigates and mediates their concerns about their rights and care.(914) 345-3993 ext.234.

 Progressive Taxes:Progressive taxes attempt to reduce the tax incidence of people with a lower ability-to-pay, as they shift the incidence disproportionately to those with a higher ability-to-pay. It can be applied to individual taxes or to a tax system as a whole; a year, multi-year, or lifetime. It can also apply to adjustment of the tax base by using tax exemptions, tax credits, or selective taxation that would create progressive distributional effects.

 Project Lifesaver: Electronic tracking device program initiated by Westchester County in August 2008 for persons with dementia. (914) 368-5506

Provider: Individual or organization that provides health care or long-term care services (e.g. doctors, hospital, physical therapists, home health aides and more).  Medicare Information Line (914) 813-6100

Predatory Lending: Deceptive and sometimes fraudulent sales tactics used when a party is taking out a mortgage or home-equity loan. (914) 995-2155

Quality of Care: A measure of the degree to which delivered health services meet established professional standards and judgments of value to the consumer.

 Rehabilitation Services: Services designed to improve/restore a person’s functioning. These include physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or speech therapy. The services are provided at home or in long-term care.

Respite Care: The provision of short-term relief (respite) to families caring for their frail elders. It offers tremendous potential to maintain dependent persons in the least restrictive environment. Respite services encompass traditional home-based care, as well as adult day health, skilled nursing, home health aide and short-term institutional care. Respite can vary in time from part of a day to several weeks. (914) 813-6442 – (914) 761-0600 Ext.340

Reverse mortgage: A loan available to seniors  used to release the home equity in the property as one lump sum or multiple payments. The homeowner’s obligation to repay the loan is deferred until the owner dies, the home is sold or the owner leaves (e.g. goes  into a nursing home). A reverse mortgage is analogous to an annuity where the principal and interest are paid with homeowner’s equity. (914) 428- 0953

Senior Centers: A vital link in the service delivery network for use by seniors, senior centers may function as meal sites, screening clinics, recreational centers, social service agency branch offices, mental health counseling clinics, older worker employment agencies, volunteer coordinating centers and community meeting halls. The significance of senior centers cannot be underestimated for they provide a sense of belonging, offer the opportunity to see old acquaintances and make new friends and encourage individuals to pursue activities of personal interest and involvement in the community. (914) 813-6300

Share the Care Team: Program for caregivers that need help with errands, chores, sorting medical bills, shopping, etc. (914) 245-9167

Social Security: A federal social insurance program established in 1935 that includes a retirement income program, disability, and survivor and Supplemental Security Income benefits, and health insurance through the Medicare program. 1-800- 772-1213 – Hearing Impaired 1-800-325-0778

Spend Down: A Medicaid financial eligibility requirement that requires beneficiaries to spend down their income/or assets by paying for health care with their own assets or income until they reach the income-eligibility level. (914) 813-6100

Support Groups: Groups of people who share a common bond (e.g. caregivers) and come together on a regular basis to share problems and experiences. The groups may be sponsored by social service agencies, senior centers and religious organizations. (914) 813-6300

State Units on Aging (SUAs): The Older Americans Act mandates that each state have a state agency on aging which is part of state government. The State Agency on Aging is the designated focal point within the state government responsible for administering a complex service system designed to complement and support other human service systems in meeting the needs of the elderly.  The New York State Office for the Aging is a designated agency (402) 471-2307

State Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Programs (SHIP): Known as SHIP, this program is comprised of 53 state programs and nearly 15,000 trained volunteers who offer unbiased, one-on-one counseling to help Medicare beneficiaries understand their health insurance benefits and options. 1-800- 342-9871 or Medicare Information Line (914) 813-6100

Transportation: Programs that provide door-to-door transportation for people who may be elderly or disabled, do not have private transportation and are unable to use public transportation to meet their needs. (914) 813-6300

Vetting:  A process of examination and evaluation that generally refers to performing a background check on someone before offering him or her employment.  (914) 995-2155

Work Search: AARP provides direct services to mature adults seeking employment through:  AARP Foundation WorkSearch Assessment System and AARP Foundation Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP).  New York (212) (718) 585-2500-Bklyn, NY (717) 834-1100 – NYC, NY (212) 423-9922