Simona Combi
Public Relations Manager

May 6, 2024, 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 five individuals and two organizations working to ensure that every American can age with dignity. The seven honorees will receive Trailblazers in Aging Awards at NCOA’s Age+Action Conference, May 6-8 in Arlington, Virginia.

“This year’s Trailblazers showcase the passion and innovation happening throughout the aging network,” said Ramsey Alwin, NCOA President and CEO. “These professionals and organizations are addressing critical challenges facing today’s older adults, including transportation, social isolation, health, benefits access, and more. We are proud to spotlight their incredible service.”

The 2024 NCOA Trailblazers in Aging are sponsored by Cumulus. Below are honorees by category.


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

City of Santa Monica

After hearing older residents wanted more transportation options, the city’s Big Blue Bus partnered with Lyft to launch Mobility On Demand Every Day (MODE). Replacing the traditional dial-a-ride service, MODE offers residents freedom by leveraging Lyft’s driver network. Users can take on-demand trips to appointments, shopping, and social events with curb-to-curb rides and convenient payments. With the same budget, MODE increased ridership by 41%. 

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of MODE members is a top priority, and we thank the National Council on Aging for recognizing these efforts,” said Alfredo Torales, Planning and Performance Manager with the City of Santa Monica Department of Transportation.


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

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, Commissioner, New York City Department for the Aging

Cortés-Vázquez prioritizes equity and diversity and works to ensure the city’s 1.8 million older residents can age with dignity. She established the Cabinet for Older New Yorkers as a cross-disciplinary team with 24 agencies working to better meet the needs of older adults. Initiatives include an anti-ageism resource guide in public schools and police officers in every precinct to serve as liaisons for older residents. 

“I am deeply honored to receive the 2024 Change Agent Award from the National Council on Aging. To me, there is no greater honor than being recognized by my peers for work that enhances the dignity and quality of life for older adults and reinforces our shared vision for an age-inclusive society. On behalf of the 1.8 million older adults in New York City and the nonprofit network that serves them every day, thank you,” Cortés-Vázquez said. 


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

Jenna Hauss, President and CEO, ONEgeneration

Hauss led California’s first senior center to earn national accreditation, and she serves as a member of the National Institute of Senior Centers leadership collaborative. Her center has won national awards for its unique approach to serving multiple generations. Social service programs target low-income and homebound older adults, families facing food insecurity, immigrants, caregivers, at-risk youth, and individuals with disabilities—all within one cohesive organization.

“It is my honor and privilege to be able to serve as a community leader for senior centers, recognizing the value and impact they have for thousands of older adults throughout Los Angeles County,” Hauss said.


Recognizes members of Congress or the Administration for their leadership in protecting and improving public policy and programs for older adults.

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, MD

As ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, Senator Cassidy is a strong advocate for affordable health care. As a physician, one of his top priorities is to increase price transparency and use competition to lower health care costs. He is the leading congressional policymaker on issues related to integrating care for low-income beneficiaries who are dually eligible for both the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

“Congress has historically come together in a bipartisan manner to reauthorize OAA, strengthening its support for seniors each time. In a post-pandemic environment, we need to look at and evaluate the efficacy of existing programs, identify areas for improvement, and ensure taxpayer dollars are being used effectively,” said U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, MD, during Senate HELP Committee Hearing on the Older Americans Act.

U.S. Representative Lois Frankel

Representative Frankel is a passionate champion for programs to prevent falls among older adults. In Congress, she leads efforts to increase funding through the Administration for Community Living and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She advocated for a new Research, Demonstration, and Evaluation Center to disseminate innovative Older Americans Act services, and she works to protect and improve Medicare and Social Security for all.

“Thank you to the National Council on Aging for this honor and for the tremendous work you do on behalf of older adults. Older Americans have made a lifetime's worth of contributions to their communities; it's our responsibility to ensure they're able to age with comfort, dignity, and financial security. I remain committed to protecting hard-earned Social Security and Medicare benefits, advocating for affordable elder care, and working in Congress to provide resources and funding for programs to prevent falls among older adults,” Rep. Frankel said.


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

Novo Nordisk Inc.

Novo Nordisk works to defeat serious chronic diseases through scientific breakthroughs and expanded access to medicines. With their support, NCOA and the National Consumers League held townhalls to understand the lived experiences of older adults with obesity. This led to the nation’s first Obesity Bill of Rights, designed to eliminate weight bias and ageism in health care and ensure all have equitable access to treatment.

“We are honored by this recognition, and we are proud to work alongside NCOA in ensuring access to care for chronic diseases that adversely impact older adults’ ability to age well,” said Leslie Platt Zolov, Executive Director, Alliance Development, Sustainability & Social Impact, Novo Nordisk, Inc.


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

Barbara Shaheed, Senior Coordinator, NCOA Center for Benefits Access

Shaheed has dedicated 40 years to ensuring the dignity and well-being of older adults. She helped establish the Access to Benefits Coalition, now the National Center for Benefits Outreach, connecting thousands of low-income older adults to programs that help them afford food, medicine, and more. Her steadfast dedication to NCOA’s mission has left an indelible mark on her colleagues and older adults across the nation.

“In any organizational role, each of us serves as a vital component of a cohesive team, united in purpose to achieve our collective mission,” Shaheed said.

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. Learn more at and @NCOAging.