Key Takeaways

  • Bingo is a popular tool to educate older adults about Medicare and benefits using a fun format.

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, one agency in Indiana moved bingo benefits education to a parking lot to keep participants safe and engaged.

For many years, Indiana’s SHIP/MIPPA outreach staff have held Medicare bingo games to educate Medicare beneficiaries on the basics of Medicare and subsidies that help pay for it. Prior to the pandemic, games were held in community gathering spots such as town halls, local restaurants, and libraries. With the advent of COVID-19 and the associated physical distancing requirements, the outreach staff and a volunteer counselor recognized that if outreach and education events were to continue, they needed to get creative. Thus, Parking Lot Medicare Bingo was born. 

Event preparation

The second parking lot bingo event (the first was done by a SHIP volunteer counselor at her Senior Center site upon request of the seniors) was held in the parking lot of a SHIP/MIPPA enrollment center.  Since clients are no longer being seen at the center except for food pantry pick-ups, the parking lot had plenty of spots available for an event. 

Participants parked in designated spots as directed by SHIP staff. Participants had the option to remain in their cars or sit in lawn chairs outside of their vehicle. Staff borrowed a karaoke machine to act as a sound system, which was plugged in inside the building using a very long extension cord.

Getting the word out

As with any event, the staff needed to promote and plan. Information on Parking Lot Bingo was published in the agency’s monthly newsletter and posted on the online SHIP events calendar. In addition, the site promoted the event on their Facebook page, and the event was advertised and “talked up” during a weekly Tuesday morning radio show hosted by the site’s Executive Director. There was no rain date, nor did the SHIP know if anyone would show up to play. They didn’t request reservations but had supplies for a crowd.

What happened during the event

The weather was perfect and nine participants showed up for the inaugural Parking Lot Bingo, which was not bad considering there was no free food!    

Staff complied with the safety measures required by the Center, e.g., using masks, hand sanitizer and wipes, performing temperature checks, and practicing social distancing.  

Woman in mask calling out bingo numbers
Center counselors used a karaoke machine to call out bingo numbers and information

Staff directed the cars to face in the same direction and gather close enough together to ensure everyone could hear the numbers and information called out and allow the staff to stay stationary by the Karaoke machine. Medicare bingo under normal circumstances allows staff to walk around the room and ask questions, then hand out small promo products to those who participate. With Parking Lot Bingo, goodies were intermittently handed out to everyone. Participants yelled out answers to questions and honked their car horns when they “BINGOed”.

For this Parking Lot Bingo, everyone was a winner. The SHIP staff also decided, at the last minute, to play a hybrid version instead of Medicare bingo, where they interspersed Medicare facts with bingo numbers and, of course, offered to help people with benefits applications after the game.

Looking ahead

It was clear that participants enjoyed the activity, and many commented on how great it was to get out and do something fun. The group was excited to hear about future Bingo in the Park or Lawn Chair Bingo or possibly an ice cream social once social distancing requirements are relaxed. 

Questions? Please direct any questions on Parking Lot Bingo, including the Medicare bingo cards, to Susan Spilly, State Special Populations Coordinator for SHIP/MIPPA at the Indiana Department of Insurance.