2021 Honorees

Innovator Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization that has created innovative solutions to improve the health and economic security of older adults in the community. It is in honor of Jack Ossofsky, a former NCOA president who launched numerous successful programs and promoted the true promises of an aging society.

Senior Citizens Home Assistance Service, Inc. (SCHAS)

In its 50th year, SCHAS embarked on a challenge of pandemic proportions. When the nation shut down, the staff found a way to keep current employees paid while delivering essential supplies to older adults in rural and urban East Tennessee. Within four days, the team raised $20,000, created an online and phone intake system, and began marketing a service to shop for older adults and people with COVID who could not leave their homes. No one was turned away from the SCHAS Out Shopping (SOS) program, and it allowed individuals to order their own food, cleaning supplies, and toiletry items to be delivered to their doorstep at no cost. Those who could afford items paid by cash, credit, or SNAP card. A third of recipients had no resources and received their requested items for free. The program saved lives and prevented financial exploitation of some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

"We have so many stories to tell from this program, but the message is the same. No matter your circumstances in life, you can have hope, your fears can be removed, and love can be given and received. Dignity does not have to disappear as we age." - Tim Howell, CEO, Senior Citizens Home Assistance Service, Inc.

Change Agent Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization working to ensure that every person—regardless of race, income, or background—has the resources to age well. It is in honor of Frankie Freeman, a civil rights attorney and former NCOA Board member who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Dr. Steven Wallace, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Dr. Steven Wallace was an internationally renowned scholar on health disparities among older adults, immigrants, and communities of color. He led the effort to have California adopt the Elder Economic Security Standard Index as the official cost-of-living measure for older adults in the state. He championed teams that developed innovative, community-based methods to increase the use of clinical preventive services among older adults of color in Los Angeles. Nationally, Dr. Wallace created the consortium of Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research with a goal of increasing the diversity of the workforce on aging research. A tireless advocate for the rights of immigrants, he served as the principal investigator on the NIH-funded RIGHTS Study that examined how Latin and Asian American populations in California were excluded in health care, social welfare, employment, education, and law enforcement. Throughout his 40-year career, Dr. Wallace was also an impactful and beloved mentor to dozens of students and professionals in the field.

"Steve was committed to ensuring that older adults, especially underserved communities, have access to resources to age with health and financial security. His work in California and nationally spotlighted disparities that still need to be addressed, and we will sorely miss his leadership." - Laura Trejo, General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Aging

Public Private Partnership Award

This award recognizes organizations that have established powerful partnerships that build bridges between the public and private sectors to empower every person to age well. It is in honor of Arthur Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Eisenhower, U.S. Commissioner on Aging under President Nixon, recipient of two Presidential Medals of Freedom, and a tireless advocate for older adults.

Bank of America Charitable Foundation

Bank of America is guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better, through the power of every connection. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation is committed to forming strong partnerships with nonprofits to bring together collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. For more than 10 years, the Foundation has been a trusted and collaborative partner in NCOA’s efforts to improve the economic security of older adults, especially those who are struggling. It has supported initiatives to connect limited-income, Black, and Hispanic-Latino older adults to benefits through NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp®. It also has supported NCOA initiatives to create an online Age Well Planner, provide casework to victims of natural disasters, and educate older adults about benefits, scams, and prepaid debit cards. Through this partnership, NCOA and Bank of America have reached hundreds of thousands of older adults.

"We are grateful for this recognition and are proud of our continued partnership with NCOA in helping low-income seniors build financial security. Providing integrated services from job placement to health and transportation resources is essential to promoting economic self-sufficiency and stability to a population in need." - Kerry Sullivan, President, Bank of America Charitable Foundation

NISC Founders Award

This award recognizes exemplary and long-standing service to the senior center field. It is in honor of the nine founders of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers.

Denise Niese, Executive Director, Wood County Committee on Aging

Denise Niese has led the Wood County Committee on Aging since 2005. An advocate for older adults, she is Past President of the Ohio Association of Senior Centers and served as Treasurer for the NISC Delegate Council. Niese led the effort to update the NCOA Senior Center Standards of Excellence to accommodate online submissions for subsequent accreditations. She finds value in NISC for her professional development and networking and believes accreditation benefits senior centers and their communities. She successfully secured a $1.6 million capital grant to build a new senior center in Wood County, the largest State of Ohio capital grant ever awarded in the county to a nonprofit. In her community, Niese also serves on the advisory committee for the Woodhaven Healthcare nursing home, Wood County Job and Family Services, and the Ohio Association of Senior Centers Board.

"I am honored and humbled to receive the 2021 NISC Founders Award. Through the years, I have benefitted by the many mentors who have passed through my personal and professional life. Many of those individuals in the field of aging have been connected to me through NCOA/NISC opportunities. As we continue to serve older adults in our communities, it is imperative that NCOA/NISC remains a strong network and resource to support our efforts at the local level." - Denise Niese, Executive Director, Wood County Committee on Aging

Exceptional Service Award

This award recognizes individuals or organizations that went above and beyond to deliver timely and life-saving services to older adults during the pandemic.

WellMed Charitable Foundation

When COVID-19 vaccines became available in January, the WellMed Charitable Foundation quickly partnered with WellMed Medical Management to convert empty senior centers into mass vaccination centers. Working with city and county agencies and other health organizations, they established sites in low-income, diverse neighborhoods with high rates of COVID. The sites administered over 250,000 shots, with 57% provided to Hispanic/Latino populations and 73% to people aged 50 and older. Dining rooms became hubs for vaccinations, and pool tables were removed to create a socially distanced waiting area. Volunteers included an occasional guitarist tucked in among the exercise equipment to keep participants calm and entertained. The Foundation also invested more than $400,000 to build software to allow vaccination data to be transferred directly into the state health database, eliminating the need for 50 volunteers a day. The effort has filled the senior centers with joy and hope until members are finally able to return.

"The opportunity to take our shuttered senior activity centers and use them to distribute over 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in partnership with our WellMed providers and staff has been a humbling but powerful experience that has reminded us that we change lives one at a time." - Carol Zernial, Executive Director, WellMed Charitable Foundation

Distinguished Service Award

This award recognizes NCOA employees and volunteers who have made major contributions to NCOA’s mission and social impact. It is in honor of Geneva Mathiasen, NCOA’s first executive director who spent her career building the foundation for a lasting organization.

James Firman, Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, BellAge

For more than 40 years, Firman has been a leading force for innovation in services, programs, and public policies for older adults. As president and CEO of NCOA for 25 years, he was a national leader in consumer education, benefits access, economic security, and healthy aging for older adults. In 2020, Firman co-founded BellAge to improve public health through artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. BellAge’s initial focus has been keeping older adults safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We serve a great cause. Keep going. Seize the moment!" - Jim Firman, Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, BellAge

 

2020 Honorees

Innovator Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization that has created innovative solutions to improve the health and economic security of older adults in the community. It is in honor of Jack Ossofsky, a former NCOA president who launched numerous successful programs and promoted the true promises of an aging society.

Tim Getty

Tim Getty is the Regional Nutrition Program Coordinator for Heritage Area Agency on Aging in Cedar Rapids, IA. He oversees the Older Americans Act regional nutrition program in seven counties, serving 100,000 meals annually. When the congregate meal program’s participation declined 74% in six years, Getty led an innovative project called Encore Café, which offers a salad bar, choice menu, table service, evidence-based health programming, and produce boxes in partnership with local food banks. Before the project, Linn County served 35 older adult participants. Within two years of implementation, the project served 1,234 participants 17,348 meals. Its average voluntary contribution rates also increased by 133%. The project is now being replicated in other Iowa counties.

 

“I am beyond honored to receive this prestigious award and am beyond grateful for the continued support of our local team, volunteers, and participants of this initiative.”

Change Agent Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization working to ensure that every person—regardless of race, income, or background—has the resources to age well. It is in honor of Frankie Freeman, a civil rights attorney and former NCOA Board member who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee is CEO and co-founder of Happy50Plus, a socially conscious and consumer-centric free membership organization that helps the underserved Chinese American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) 50+ population in Southern California. As many as 70% of this immigrant population has limited English proficiency or no English-speaking skills. Happy50Plus serves more than 2,500 AAPI older adults by providing in-language information, resources, and learning opportunities to members, their families, and caregivers. During COVID-19, it has become a trusted source for many monolingual and socially isolated older people. Before starting Happy50Plus, Lee provided culturally appropriate in-language television programming for viewers aged 55+.

“Happy50Plus is a community-based, volunteer-driven organization with a passion to provide in-language virtual, online, and in-person activities. We look forward to working with NCOA and other organizations to provide even more information, services, and resources to the older Chinese/AAPI Americans in the community.”

Public Private Partnership Award

This award recognizes organizations that have established powerful partnerships that build bridges between the public and private sectors to empower every person to age well. It is in honor of Arthur Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Eisenhower, U.S. Commissioner on Aging under President Nixon, recipient of two Presidential Medals of Freedom, and a tireless advocate for older adults.

Servicios de la Raza

The Servicios de La Raza (Servicios), Denver, CO, mission is to provide and advocate for culturally responsive essential human services and opportunities. Founded in 1972, Servicios serves low- and moderate-income Colorado communities irrespective of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation with respect and dignity. Services include, but are not limited to, a food pantry, clothing bank, benefits enrollment, behavioral health, victim services, ex-offender re-entry, and workforce development. For many, Servicios is the “life-blood” of the Latinx community in Metro Denver and across Colorado, standing up to intolerance and sweeping regulations like “public charge” that had a chilling effect on refugee and immigrant communities. They continue to move boldly forward through the uncertainties of COVID-19 and shine a light on those disproportionately impacted with the most social and economic challenges.

“Mil gracias to NCOA for this significant award and recognition; however, even more important, mil gracias to NCOA for their partnership in serving our aging Colorado community.”  - Rudy Gonzales, Executive Director

NISC Founders Award

This award recognizes exemplary and long-standing service to the senior center field. It is in honor of the nine founders of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers.

Jill Hall

Jill Hall is Chief of the Senior Centers and Community Services Division at Baltimore County Department of Aging, Towson, MD. She has been a senior center leader for more than 22 years. Hall leads a division of 20 senior centers, many of which have been nationally accredited by NCOA. She is a four-time President of the Maryland Association of Senior Centers, and has chaired initiatives to dispel ageist stereotypes and promote brain fitness, social isolation, and senior wellness. Hall has served on the Executive Committee of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) for the past eight years. During that time, she developed and led its Programs of Excellence Awards. This month, Hall will become NISC Chair-Elect.

“Throughout my career, I have benefitted from the exceptional resources and leading-edge programs developed by NCOA and NISC. I am excited to be continuing to serve this wonderful agency.”

NISC State Leader Award

This award recognizes a state leader who keeps senior centers at the forefront of aging issues within their state or region.

David Stevens

David Stevens has been Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging (MCOA) since 1994. MCOA advocates to advance policies that effectively address the needs of older adults, family caregivers, and people with disabilities. Under Stevens’ leadership, MCOA provides lobbying, training, technical assistance, and grants to its 350 municipal members. MCOA is modeled closely after NCOA with four main pillars: Economic Security, Healthy Aging, Outreach to Underserved Populations, and Training and Technical Assistance to local councils.

“It is an honor to receive this recognition from an organization that I deeply admire, but I only accept this on behalf of all of the 350 Councils on Aging in our Commonwealth that have all contributed to MCOA’s success. Those who are currently serving on the frontline of our communities, providing services in this time of COVID-19, are the true trailblazers.”

 

2019 Honorees

Champion Award

This award recognizes members of Congress who have a demonstrated track record of leadership to improve the lives of older adults, enabling them to age with their best possible health and economic security. It is in honor of Claude Pepper, who was universally recognized as “the voice of senior citizens” throughout his five decades of service in the U.S. Congress.

Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA)

U.S. Senator Bob Casey fights every day for Pennsylvania families. He is a strong advocate for policies that improve the health care and early learning of children and policies that will raise wages for the middle class. Senator Casey serves on four committees, including the Senate Finance Committee and Senate HELP Committee. He is also the highest-ranking Democrat on the Special Committee on Aging, where his agenda is focused on policies that support seniors and individuals with disabilities. NCOA is honoring Senator Casey for leading the Senate fight to oppose harmful Medicaid cuts and caps while improving access to home and community-based services, and for his work to strengthen Medicare for vulnerable beneficiaries and modernize Older Americans Act programs to better serve those in need.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

First elected in 1996, Senator Collins has earned a national reputation as an effective legislator who works across party lines to seek consensus on our nation’s most important issues. For the past six consecutive years, she has ranked as the most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University. Senator Collins ranks twelfth in Senate seniority and is the most senior Republican woman. She chairs the Senate Aging Committee and the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. NCOA is honoring Senator Collins for championing critical issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, falls prevention, diabetes, and protecting Medicaid.

Lifetime Achievement Award

This award recognizes an individual who has had a lifelong career of outstanding service to older adults. It is in honor of Ollie Randall, a pioneer in the field of aging who was the driving force behind the New York State Office on Aging and the nation’s first senior center and was co-founder of both NCOA and LeadingAge.

Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, preventive medicine pioneer and “father of aerobics,” introduced the concept of exercising in pursuit of good health when he launched the worldwide phenomenon Aerobics in 1968—his first of 19 books on health and fitness. He is founder and chairman of the renowned Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, the home of six health and wellness companies, and the nonprofit, The Cooper Institute. At age 88, he is still practicing medicine daily at Cooper Clinic. NCOA is honoring Dr. Cooper for his lifetime commitment to elevating the importance of aerobic exercise, which is a foundational element of healthy aging.

Jennie Chin Hansen

For almost 25 years, Jennie Chin Hansen was an executive at On Lok, a prototype for the 1997 federal law that incorporated the Program for All Inclusive Care to the Elderly (PACE) into Medicare and Medicaid that now operates in 33 states. For six years, she was CEO of the American Geriatrics Society, and she also served as President of AARP during the passage of the Affordable Care Act. A seasoned health care leader, she currently serves on the boards of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Dignity Health System, the SCAN Plan, and the SCAN Foundation. NCOA is honoring Hansen for her lifetime of service to older adults, especially those who are struggling.

Change Agent Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization working to ensure that every person—regardless of race, income, or background—has the resources to age well. It is in honor of Frankie Freeman, a civil rights attorney and former NCOA Board member who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Michael Adams

Michael Adams is CEO of SAGE (Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders), the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older people. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older people and their caregivers. SAGE also advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT elders and provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT community organizations. NCOA is honoring Adams for his outstanding leadership in significantly growing SAGE’s influence, programming, and reach.

Martha B. Peláez

Martha B. Peláez is an international consultant on aging and health with more than 35 years of experience working in the field of gerontology. She has been a tireless advocate and innovator, promoting evidence-based solutions that improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, international public health programs (especially in the Americas), and groundbreaking regional collaboratives in South Florida. NCOA is honoring Peláez for her passion in advocating to improve health and quality of life for older adults of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.

Innovator Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization that has created innovative solutions to improve the health and economic security of older adults in the community. It is in honor of Jack Ossofsky, a former NCOA president who launched numerous successful programs and promoted the true promises of an aging society.

Healthy Living Center of Excellence

Foreseeing the need for collaborative approaches to evidence-based program sustainability, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley developed the Healthy Living Center of Excellence (HLCE) in 2013. Today, HLCE serves as the “hub” for a Massachusetts-wide network delivering chronic disease self-management, falls prevention, behavioral health, and family caregiver and nutrition programs, all with a goal of supporting older adults and adults with disabilities in proactively managing their health. NCOA is honoring HLCE because it is an important model of successful partnerships between health care and aging services to address the social and behavioral determinants of healthy aging.

Public Private Partnership Award

This award recognizes organizations that have established powerful partnerships that build bridges between the public and private sectors to empower every person to age well. It is in honor of Arthur Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Eisenhower, U.S. Commissioner on Aging under President Nixon, recipient of two Presidential Medals of Freedom, and a tireless advocate for older adults.

Anthem, Inc.

Anthem is a leading health benefits company dedicated to improving lives and communities and making health care simpler. Through its affiliated companies, Anthem serves more than 78 million people, including over 40 million within its family of health plans. Anthem aims to be the most innovative, valuable, and inclusive partner. NCOA is honoring Anthem because of its commitment to serving older adults, its innovative approaches to addressing social and behavioral determinants of health, and its work preparing individuals to live long, healthy lives.

The Retirement Research Foundation

The Retirement Research Foundation (RRF) is devoted exclusively to improving the quality of life for our nation’s older adults, especially those who are vulnerable due to advanced age, economic disadvantage, or disparity related to race and ethnicity. Since its endowment by the late John D. MacArthur in 1978, RRF has awarded more than $200 million in grants. RRF fulfills its mission through grantmaking programs, which support innovative advocacy, direct service, professional education and training, and research projects that benefit older Americans. NCOA is honoring RRF for its long-standing and steadfast commitment to supporting innovative solutions that address the needs of low-income older adults and frail elders who are struggling to remain in their communities.

NISC Founders Award

This award recognizes exemplary and long-standing service to the senior center field. It is in honor of the nine founders of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers.

Carol Reagan

Carol Reagan has worked with senior centers for 40 years. She is Executive Director of the Palatine Township Senior Citizens Council, which operates the Palatine Township Senior Center in Palatine, IL. Under her direction, PTSCC has been accredited three times by NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC), added satellite offices, expanded programming, and more than doubled its budget. Reagan is a past NISC Chair, a NISC Accreditation Board Member, and a NISC leader since 2002. NCOA is honoring her for her outstanding leadership for senior centers nationwide.

NCOA Distinguished Service Award

This award recognizes NCOA employees and volunteers who have made major contributions to NCOA’s mission and social impact. It is in honor of Geneva Mathiasen, NCOA’s first executive director who spent her career building the foundation for a lasting organization.

Jay Greenberg

Over the last four plus decades, Jay Greenberg has played leadership roles in university, not-for-profit, for-profit start-ups, and publicly traded company settings. For the last 20 years, he has had various leadership positions at NCOA, including CEO of NCOA Services. Prior to joining NCOA, he was President of one of United Healthcare’s wholly owned business units, and he co-founded two successful entrepreneurial health companies. NCOA is honoring Greenberg for his substantial contributions to NCOA’s work in the areas of economic security, health, and long-term care, as well as for his passion for social enterprises and partnerships with the private sector that make markets work better for seniors.

Lynn Fields Harris

Until June 2018, Lynn Fields Harris served for 15 years as Executive Director of Center in the Park, a nationally accredited senior community center and social services agency in Philadelphia. Through her leadership, the center was transformed into a wellness center and was recognized as a model for the implementation of innovative programming and of community-based/academic participatory research initiatives with diverse populations. Center in the Park was a key community partner for several NCOA initiatives, and she has served in numerous volunteer leadership roles, including as an NCOA Board member and Chair of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers. NCOA is honoring Harris for her incredible commitment to furthering NCOA’s mission and social impact.

 

Nancy Whitelaw

Nancy Whitelaw was NCOA’s Senior Vice President for Health and founding Director of NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging, where she led a national movement to foster adoption of evidence-based programming by community agencies. Prior to joining NCOA in 1999, Dr. Whitelaw served as Associate Director of the Center for Health System Studies at the Henry Ford Health System, overseeing research and training projects on care coordination and geriatric team care. During 2012, she served as President of the Gerontological Society of America. NCOA is honoring Whitelaw for improving the health and well-being of older adults by fostering broad-based collaborations among practitioners, academics, and policymakers across health care, public health, and community services.