The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015. From its beginnings as a pilot project funded under Operation Mainstream in 1965 to today’s programs operating under Title V of the Older Americans Act, the

SCSEP has amply demonstrated its relevance and value over its half a century’s existence.


SCSEP, Title V of the Older Americans Act, evolved from Operation Mainstream, a pilot project funded under the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965. Operation Mainstream provided job opportunities in rural areas for chronically unemployed and disadvantaged

adults. Green Thumb, sponsored by the National Farmers Union, was the first older worker pilot project funded under Operations Mainstream. It began operations in 1965 with 280 participants in Arkansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oregon. Green Thumb participants

worked on beautification and restoration projects in public areas, including parks, historical and recreational sites.

Vintage SCSEP Participant Photos

In 1969, Department of Labor renewed its contract with the National Farmers Union and awarded contracts to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC) to establish an Older American Community Service Program as a demonstration project. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Virginia State College became sponsors under Operations Mainstream in the same year. In 1969, more than 4,000 participants were enrolled in these various demonstration programs.


In 1970, Senator Edward Kennedy introduced the Older American Community Service Employment Act (OACSEA), which authorized the Department of Labor to develop agreements with private, non-profit organizations and State and local government agencies to provide unemployed individuals 55 years or older with community service employment opportunities. The purpose of this legislation was to convert the successful Operation Mainstream pilot projects into a permanent national program. The early emphasize of the national program was to supplement participants incomes, not its current dual focus on unsubsidized employment and community service.


Title V has managed to be mostly consistent in its growth of enrollee numbers and funding allocations. It was funded in 1974 for 3,800 authorized positions. States began receiving funds in 1976. The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Asociacion Nacional Pro Personas Mayores (National Association of Hispanic Elderly) and National Urban League were funded in 1978. With this history of increased Title V appropriations, DOL currently funds 15 national and 56 states and territories as grantees and is funded for 44,575 authorized positions.


As we come together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the SCSEP this week, it behooves us to take a minute to look back at the rich and varied history of this program as we, champions of SCSEP, craft and guide its future. Throughout its history, SCSEP has enabled low-income older Americans to help themselves while helping others in their communities. We must continue to work diligently for all the disadvantaged older Americans who want to continue to work, learn and contribute to their communities as they improve their economic well-being.





Data Entry Clerk

Office Worker


Kitchen Workers



Construction Workers




Greenhouse Worker

Kitchen Worker



Senior Community Service

Employment Program

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