Connecting with Seniors through the Farmers’ Market
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Connecting with Seniors through the Farmers’ Market

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December 10, 2010

Sometimes one of the most successful benefits outreach strategies can be targeting recipients who receive another benefit. That’s what the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio did when it leveraged its locally successful Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program to do outreach for the Low-Income Subsidy (LIS/Extra Help). Thanks to a steady volunteer corps that provided outreach and application assistance, the Area Office on Aging was able to increase enrollment in LIS as a direct result of this effort.

Who was the target audience?

Seniors potentially eligible for, but not enrolled in, the Medicare Low Income Subsidy (LIS/Extra Help) and Medicare Savings Programs (MSP)

What did they do?

The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) of the Area Office on Aging – which provides coupons to low-income seniors to purchase fresh food at farmers’ markets and roadside stands – has been a huge success in Northwest Ohio, a mixed urban-rural area that has seen significant unemployment as a result of the economic downturn.

Each spring, the SFMNP conducts a mailing to current enrollees asking them to re-apply for the program, which is open to Ohio residents 60+ with incomes less than $20,035 (individual)/$26,954 (couple). Recognizing that some SFMNP participants may be eligible for, but not receiving, LIS and MSP, the Area Office on Aging included a one-page insert into the re-application mailing that alerted participants about LIS/MSP and how to contact the agency for screening and application assistance.

What was the result?

The Area Office on Aging received a large number of inquiries directly following the mailing, which they considered “phenomenal” given that there was no pre-paid postage or envelope to send in or request more information. The agency credits their well-established RSVP program of volunteers for being able to quickly respond to all inquiries, screen applicants, and help those who were potentially eligible to submit applications. Because the volunteers are also seniors, it is easy for them to gain trust and credibility with the target audience. The volunteers also assisted persons who might not qualify for LIS/MSP with referrals to other agencies for assistance, including the Aging and Disability Resource Center, as well as with screening for other benefits programs, where applicable.

Approximately 75 percent of the LIS applications submitted by the Area Office on Aging directly resulted from this outreach to SFMNP participants. The effort will be repeated next spring with the subsequent re-application cycle for the SFMNP.

As a local partner in Ohio’s Medicare Improvements to Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) grant, the Area Office on Aging was tasked with submitting over 400 LIS/MSP applications during the first grant cycle (June 2009 – May 2011). They exceeded this quota, having submitted 571 applications by the end of October, with a large portion of these attributed to the SFMNP targeting effort. Knowing that there is still unmet need in their community, the Area Office on Aging continues its benefits outreach and enrollment work, now focused meeting on the next MIPPA grant cycle goals.

For more information

Sally Davies
Director RSVP
Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio, Inc.
2155 Arlington Avenue
Toledo, Ohio 43609
419-382-7060, ext.2219
Fax: 419-382-7099
sdavies@areaofficeonaging.com
www.areaofficeonaging.com

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