Every year through its National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC), NCOA honors outstanding efforts made by senior centers across the nation to offer innovative, creative, and impactful programs for older adults. Each program is proof of the important work that happens at senior centers. And these programs serve as models for senior center staff across the country to implement in their communities. 

The call for submissions is now open!

"We are thrilled every year to recognize the innovation and creativity of senior centers as they improve the lives of older adults in their communities," said Dianne Stone, NCOA's Associate Director, Center for Healthy Aging. 

These programs impact the lives of older adults in so many ways and provide example and inspiration for senior centers across the country."

Winning programs are featured on ncoa.org, celebrated at NCOA’s Age+Action Conference, featured in our Programs of Excellence Webinar Series and receive a cash prize. 

The award categories:

1. Marketing/Public Relations

This award category highlights the innovative ways senior centers have reached their communities—through marketing campaigns, branding, positioning, and outreach that has raised the visibility of the center, attracted new participants, or brought in new partners. Special emphasis is placed on those efforts that helped to get people back into the senior center after pandemic closures.

2. Social and Support Services

This award category highlights innovative ways senior centers have addressed economic security and basic needs in their communities. Included are programs and strategies that might be one time or systemic. Special emphasis on strategies that expanded reach in terms of new partners, new populations, or increased engagement.

3. Health and Wellness

This award category highlights programs and services that improve the health and well-being of older adults through programs, screenings, and education. Special emphasis on strategies that expanded reach in terms of new partners, new populations, or increased engagement.

4. Intergenerational

This award category highlights programs that create opportunities for meaningful multigenerational engagement. While this always includes older adults, it might also include young children to adults. Programs in this category may include one-time events or new frameworks for operations. Special emphasis on strategies that expanded reach in terms of new partners, new populations, or increased engagement.

5. Nutrition

This award category highlights programs that address the nutritional needs of older adults including and especially through direct food services. Special emphasis is on initiatives that have increased participation in senior nutrition program meals, improved nutrition status, increased access to food, or decreased malnutrition.

6. Technology, Virtual and Hybrid Programming

This award category highlights programs that have engaged older adults in virtual or hybrid (both online and in-person) programming in 2022 and/or that have narrowed the digital divide. This category can include instructional programs, programs using technology, and assistance programs that support access.

Highlighted Category—Modernizing Senior Centers Innovation Award

This broad award category highlights innovative programs, services, approaches, and strategies senior centers have used to “modernize” an aspect of their programs, operations, facility, workforce, resources, partnerships, policies, or research/evaluation that have created an impact. The emphasis in this category is on sustainable change in the senior center.

Eligibility

This competition is open to all NISC Affiliate senior centers. If your senior center is not a NISC Affiliate, please visit this page  to learn about our free Affiliate Membership and how you can join.

To be eligible for 2023 awards, programs must have been conducted between Jan. 1, 2023 and Dec. 31, 2023.

How to apply

All submissions must be submitted electronically through NCOA's application portal. Emailed submissions will not be considered. You will be asked to complete a simple profile, and then you can access the online application. Questions? Email dianne.stone@ncoa.org.

Applications must be submitted by: March 15, 2024.

Review process

A group of peers, NISC Affiliate members, will review all applications and score them based on an established rubric.

Judges will look for:

  • Programs that are new and innovative or that take a new spin on existing approaches
  • Programs that can be replicated by other centers
  • Programs that have demonstrated impact and outcomes
  • Special emphasis on programs that reach new audiences or segments of the population, especially diverse older adult populations and those in areas that are under-resourced including rural areas, areas that are medically underserved, areas that have higher rates of poverty.

Prizes

Cash prizes of $100 will be made to award winners in each of the five program categories.

A $300 cash prize will go to the winner of the Modernizing Senior Centers Innovation category.

More about the Programs of Excellence Awards

Our recent Programs of Excellence winners share how they brought innovative programs to the older adults in their communities.

2022 Programs of Excellence Awards winners

Marketing/Public Relations

Intergenerational

Health and Wellness

Nutrition

  • Winner: Just Picked—Thrive 55+ Active Living Center, Groton, Connecticut
  • Honorable mention: Traveling Pantry—S.C.O.P.E. Senior Citizens Services (Senior Citizens Opportunity for Personal Endeavors)

Technology, Virtual, and Hybrid Programming

Social and Support Services

Innovations in Modernization

2021 Programs of Excellence Awards winners

Marketing/Public Relations

  • Winner: 12 Days of Christmas—Norwell Council of Aging, Norwell, Massachusetts
  • Honorable mention: Caring Club—Calabasas Senior Center, Calabasas, California

Cultural Programs

Health and Wellness

  • Winner: Elder Day—Seven Oaks Senior Center, Nottingham, Maryland
  • Honorable mention: Pea Pods—Duxbury Senior Center, Duxbury, Massachusetts

Nutrition

Technology

Hybrid Programming

Reducing Isolation

  • Winner: CheckMates: AgeWell at the JCC—Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Honorable mention: Rooted in Resilience—Overlea Fullerton Senior Center, Baltimore County, Maryland

Questions about the awards or the selection process? Please email membership@ncoa.org.