Programs of Excellence
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Every year, the National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) honors outstanding efforts made by senior centers across the nation to offer innovative, creative, and replicable programs for older adults.

Senior centers across the country offer an exciting array of programs. The annual NISC Programs of Excellence Awards honor and promote these outstanding efforts.

Top award winners of each category received a $100 cash prize, and a $300 cash award was given to the top social isolation program!

The 2020 Programs of Excellence Awards applications are now open! Applications are due by Nov. 20.

2019 Programs of Excellence Manual

NISC members can now download the full 2019 Programs of Excellence Manual from NISC Crossroads. Here is how to do it:

  1. Log on the If you aren’t sure how to log in, please see this page.
  2. Click on the tab near the top labeled “Members Library”.
  3. Open the “NISC Members Only Documents” folder on the page displayed.
  4. Open the folder labeled “1 – Member Benefit Documents”.
  5. Check the box to the left of the Programs of Excellence Manual, and then click “Download” in the toolbar above the files.

After reviewing 83 nominations, the NISC Committee selected 8 award winners and 8 honorable mentions. Each program is proof of the important work that happens at senior centers.

Anyone can read about the 2019 programs of excellence winners to get unique programming ideas for your center.

Community Development, Leadership and Intergenerational Programs

  • Winner: 100 Cups of Coffee, Norwell Council on Aging, MA
  • Honorable mention: Bridging the Gap, Lutz Senior Center, FL

Cultural Programs

  • Winner: Griswell’s Open Mic and Poetry Slam, J. Charley Griswell Senior Center, GA
  • Honorable mention: Enjoying Opera and Classical Music, Surrey Services for Seniors, PA

Fundraising Programs

  • Winner: Mystic Muddy Mayhem, Groton Senior Center, CT
  • Honorable mention: Seniors Got Talent, West Side Active Older Adult Community Center, PA

Health and Wellness Programs

  • Winner: The Living Well Talk Series
  • Honorable mention: Effects of Play Therapy on Balance and Quality of Life in Older Adults, Johnson City Senior Center, TN

Nutrition Programs

  • Winner: DCSL’s Top Chef, Durham Center for Senior Life, NC
  • Honorable mention: Social Supper, Plainville Senior Center, MA

Special Events

  • Winner: My Journey, Friendship Centers, FL
  • Honorable mention: Journey into Space, Parkville Senior Center, MD

Technology Programs

  • Winner: Making Technology Easier for Seniors Expo, Robert and Pearl Seymour Center, NC
  • Honorable mention: Get your Feet Wet with Technology, Catonsville Senior Center, NC

Marketing Strategy or Campaign Award

  • Winner: Senior Shopping Mall, Senior Services Associates, Inc., IL

How to apply

Programs must have been conducted in a senior center between July 1, 2019 and Sept. 30, 2020. Judges will look for programs that are innovative, creative, and easily replicated. Award categories are:

General Categories:

  • Community Development, Leadership, and Intergenerational – Programs that increase community involvement in senior centers, enhance diversity appreciation and understanding, and develop strong leaders and volunteers
  • Cultural Programs – Programs that showcase performing and visual arts, music, and literature
  • Fundraising – Programs designed to generate revenue or in-kind sponsorship for the senior center
  • Health and Wellness – Programs designed to improve the health of seniors through screenings and education
  • Nutrition – Programs geared to improving nutritional health or combating malnutrition
  • Special Events – Programs designed as one-time events or projects; may be intergenerational, thematic, seasonal, or patriotic
  • Technology – Programs that teach the use of technology or use technology in program delivery

Highlighted Program Area: Virtual Programming:

Virtual programming has become more important than ever for senior centers during COVID-19, and will remain an important area of programming for years to come. This is why NISC has designated virtual programming as this year’s Special Category for the Programs of Excellence Awards. Share your example of virtual programming and be eligible to win $300, or apply to any of the categories in the General Awards.

There are two applications below. You may apply for an award in the General Category AND the Virtual Programming. The rules are included in each form. Due to the potential volume of submissions, each senior center may submit only ONE entry in the General Category and ONE entry in the Virtual Programming Award.

Deadline: Completed nomination forms must be received no later than Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Please direct questions and materials to NISC Program Manager Maureen O’Leary at, with “NISC Excellence Awards” in the subject line. Many thanks to Malia Fox and her team for organizing the NISC Programs of Excellence Awards!