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Stories We’ll Remember from 2020

Key Takeaways

  • COVID-19 was a challenge, but people across the country made a difference in their communities
  • New leadership and funding refueled our organization to reach new heights
  • Plans for 2021 are well underway

2020 was a year for the history books. Despite the challenges we all faced, it’s worth pausing to reflect with gratitude on what went well.

Helping older adults through COVID-19

When the pandemic arrived, we reshaped our website to make reliable information on COVID-19 easy to find. We pushed Congress to prioritize older adults in relief packages because they remain most vulnerable to the disease.

Our local partner organizations also adapted quickly to keep their communities safe and healthy. Some of them shared their stories with us.

“I am a consultant who supports the Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging in the northeast corner of Vermont. Their service area covers over 2,200 square miles. During the outbreak, their home-delivered meals network had to ramp up to double the number of meals to supply elder Vermonters. In April, their 17 meal sites made over 20,000 meals (their average monthly total is 9,000 meals) … Over 37 volunteers stepped up to deliver the meals. It was a wonder, and everyone pitched in to make it happen. One area school helped us make 2,000 meals per week.” – Mary Ellen Reis, VT

“Providing fresh fruit, vegetables, and personal protection gear to seniors throughout our communities has been a blessing and encouraging. Many of the seniors have been impacted with COVID-19, and our present has given many hope and a sense of purpose. Many of the seniors were isolated before COVID-19, and we wanted to show how a community can rally around what matters most. The elderly who are full of wisdom and gifts … having the youth involved has been so rewarding and educational.” – Sandra Mitchell, OH

Some stories we received were more personal.

“[I] continue to volunteer time to help seniors on a regular basis, including ensuring care for my mom, who is also a senior citizen. I coordinate medical services and ensure their bills are paid on a timely manner. I continue to serve while observing social distance guidelines because I have the will and I always find the way to help.” – Patricia, NY

Thank you to everyone who stepped up to protect and support older adults this year! Keep sharing your stories with us.

Innovation and advocacy

A shift to working remotely didn’t slow the NCOA team down. We stood with other advocates in response to a Supreme Court decision in January and warned of the many ways older adults could be affected by the pandemic.

Keeping people safe from COVID-19 wasn’t just something we talked about. We acted on it, too. Turning our Age+Action Conference in June into a virtual event ensured we didn’t endanger the 1,200 professionals who attended. Over four days, we celebrated being together online, shared best practices to keep older adults healthy, and even showcased some incredible artwork.

New leadership, new funding, new resources

We welcomed Ramsey Alwin as NCOA’s new President and CEO and aligned behind her vision of aging as a social justice issue. Working closely with more Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and LGBTQ+ organizations was an important step toward our goal of aging well for all, and three important grants will allow us to improve the lives of many more older adults in need—while demonstrating once again that our expertise is valued by a diverse group of funders.

We continue to make new resources available:

  • Our Falls Free CheckUp was launched in English and Spanish in September for Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Thousands of people used them to discover their risk factors for falls.
  • Our first annual Boost Your Budget Week encouraged older adults and their loved ones to connect with the estimated $30 billion in benefits that go unclaimed each year.
  • A modernized version of our My Medicare Matters® tool was released in time for this year’s Open Enrollment Period. It’s available all year, so people can easily understand their Medicare options.

A hopeful look toward 2021

We hope you’re making plans for the new year. We’ve already made recommendations to Congress and President-elect Biden about prioritizing older adults in the response to COVID-19. And excitement is brewing in anticipation of our second Age+Action Virtual Conference, June 7-10.

Thank you for supporting us—and older adults—this year. We look forward to the work we’ll do together in 2021 for every older American.

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About Dan Reiner

Dan Reiner is Digital Experiences Manager at the National Council on Aging. He lives in an inter-generational household with his parents, brother, wife, and three children.

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