Key Takeaways

  • This year's Trailblazers in Aging Award winners are being honored for their amazing work to support older adults.

  • The four individuals and one organization were honored at the Age+Action 2022 Virtual Conference.

  • The award winners continued to support older adults during a second pandemic year, helped them fend off financial scams, and were instrumental in creating tools and programs for aging well


Simona Combi
Public Relations Manager

June 6, 2022, Arlington, VA—The National Council on Aging (NCOA), the national voice for every person’s right to age well, is celebrating the outstanding contributions of four individuals and one organization working to ensure that every American can age with dignity. The five honorees will receive Trailblazers in Aging Awards at NCOA’s Age+Action 2022 Virtual Conference, June 6-8.

“We are delighted to recognize the tremendous work of this year’s Trailblazers in Aging,” said Ramsey Alwin, NCOA President and CEO. “These game-changers made sure older adults received equitable and timely support during the pandemic, helped them fend off financial scams, and provided education, tools, and programs for aging well. So many people have benefitted from their amazing work.”

Below are the 2022 NCOA Trailblazers in Aging honorees by category.

Innovator Award 

Recognizes an individual or organization that has created innovative solutions to improve the health and economic security of older adults in the community. 

S. Orlene Grant, President and CEO, Juanita C. Grant Foundation  

Orlene Grant started the Juanita C. Grant Foundation, Capitol Heights, Maryland, with a mission to “improve the quality of life for older adults through economic stability, education, and training.” Under her leadership, it has created programs to remove the stigma of aging, train older workers, and offer education on how to reduce financial scams and elder abuse. Through a unique pandemic program, the foundation disrupted social isolation among over 750 older adults in 22 states. “It is an honor to be selected for NCOA’s 2022 Innovator Award in recognition of the Juanita C. Grant Foundation’s Village Connector Experience structured outreach call service to older adults increasing social connectedness with friends, family, and the community,” Grant said. 

Change Agent Award 

Recognizes an individual or organization working to ensure that every person—regardless of race, income, or background—has the resources to age well.

Nora Moreno Cargie, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, and President, Point32Health Foundation

Nora Moreno Cargie centers social justice and racial equity in all her work. She is a leader in addressing the complex social challenges affecting older people who have experienced health disparities due to systemic racism. Under her leadership, the foundation provided millions during the pandemic to engage older people in systems-level change to ensure an equitable response to COVID-19. Moreno Cargie is a major force behind the age-friendly community movement in New England, spurring cities to become better places to grow old. “I am humbled by this recognition—it strengthens my resolve to continue to be a disrupter, to work vigilantly toward eliminating the racism and bias embedded in our systems, and to follow community in identifying solutions to the issues that matter to them,” Moreno Cargie said.

NISC Founders Award 

Recognizes exemplary and long-standing service to the senior center field.

Elizabeth Bernat, MHA, Director of Senior Services, Roper St. Francis Health

Elizabeth Bernat has worked at Lowcountry Senior Center in Charleston, South Carolina, for 20 years, serving as director for 15. She has served NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) in various capacities, including as an accreditation peer reviewer, chair of the Improving Health Team, member of the Executive Committee for seven years, and NISC Chair for two years. “Senior centers are my passion. I have seen firsthand the difference senior centers make in the lives of older adults, both in my community and communities across the country. I am continually impressed by the creativity, innovation, and dedication of senior center professionals across the county and am so thankful to NISC for keeping us all connected and elevating the work of senior centers,” Bernat said. 

Public-Private Partnership Award 

Recognizes organizations that have established powerful partnerships that build bridges between the public and private sectors to empower every person to age well. 

Nationwide Financial

Since 2019, Nationwide has been a collaborative partner in NCOA’s efforts to improve the health and economic security of older adults. It has supported NCOA in the creation of Age Well Planner, Medicare education and guidance, and research initiatives. Together, Nationwide and NCOA have reached hundreds of thousands of older adults. “Our powerful partnership with NCOA is based on our shared values and passion for helping more Americans achieve a secure retirement. Whether that’s focusing on the unique financial planning needs of women—or the broader population of those planning for or living in retirement, we’ve found some great opportunities to work together to advocate for retirement savers and help them plan for the future,” said Kristi Martin Rodriguez, Senior Vice President, Nationwide Retirement Institute.

Distinguished Service Award 

Recognizes NCOA employees and volunteers who have made major contributions to NCOA’s mission and social impact. 

Alixe McNeill, Former Vice President, Program Development, NCOA  

Alixe McNeill was a national leader who helped establish NCOA as a leading force for innovation in aging services. Her special talent was to combine a passion for innovation with a deep understanding of program development. McNeill was instrumental in designing nationally recognized evidence-based health promotion programs such as Healthy IDEAS and the Program to Encourage Actice, Rewarding Lives. Both continue to improve the lives of thousands of older adults every day. McNeill served as chair of the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging, and she helped design and obtain funding for many key NCOA initiatives, including Family Friends, Faith in Action, economic casework programs, BenefitsCheckUp®, and civic engagement programs. “Alixe was a key leader in helping NCOA go from a good to a great organization and a cherished friend and colleague,” said James Firman, Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, BellAge.

About NCOA
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is the national voice for every person’s right to age well. We believe that how we age should not be determined by gender, color, sexuality, income, or zip code. Working with thousands of national and local partners, we provide resources, tools, best practices, and advocacy to ensure every person can age with health and financial security. Founded in 1950, we are the oldest national organization focused on older adults. Follow us at @NCOAging.