By Mackie Hicks
Americans are living longer than ever before. According to recent statistics, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. While many seniors live active and healthy lifestyles, there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. Many seniors also face social barriers that can impact their health, whether it’s loneliness and isolation or lack of resources, such as transportation and access to health care.
That’s why at WellCare, we believe innovative community-based programs are critical to support our members as they age. We work to help remove social barriers to health and to ensure our members and communities have the services they need.
As part of this focus, WellCare recently supported the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A) and the 2017 recipients of the prestigious Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards. N4A honored 52 programs for their impressive track record of implementing successful initiatives to support older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers. Of the 52 programs, four winners were announced and received monetary awards:
- Mountain Empire Older Citizens (MEOC) is increasing cancer health literacy and promoting early screenings in older adults in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. To address the high incidence of cervical cancer in rural Appalachia, MEOC partnered with the University of Virginia School of Nursing and the UVA Cancer Center to study the feasibility of using at-home self-collection for HPV testing and to offer cancer trainings throughout the community.
- Greater Lynn Senior Services created a program called “Kiosks for Living Well: Health Centers without Walls” in Lynn, Massachusetts. This program provides accessible one-stop centers located where people naturally gather to assist older adults and those with disabilities with health monitoring and health management.
- The New York City Department for the Aging created a program called “Age-tastic: Promoting Health and Emotional Wellness Using Game Play.” This program uses board game play and group discussions to help educate older adults on things such as falls preventions, managing medication and financial mistreatment. It is currently being used in 200 New York City senior centers.
- The United Way’s Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County created the Geriatric Practice Leadership Institute in Texas, which was created to prepare the geriatric workforce for carefully managing the health care needs of a rapidly increasing older adult population.
In honor of Healthy Aging Month, we congratulate these four winners. They are making a difference in their local communities and helping to address the unique health needs of seniors.
Mackie Hicks is director of advocacy and community-based programs for WellCare Health Plans.