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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
Applications must be submitted by: March 15, 2024.
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.
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
- Winner: Cove Island Bridge Project—Stamford Senior Center, Connecticut
- Honorable mention: Repair Cafe—Hopkinton Senior Services
- Winner: National Diabetes Prevention Program Nursing Students Collaborative—City of St. Cloud Whitney Senior Center, Minnesota
- Honorable mention: Veterans and Valor are Valued—Jacksonville Senior Center, Florida
- Honorable mention: Girl Scouts and Seniors—Lee Council on Aging
Health and Wellness
- Winner: Senior Helping Senior Network—Sunshine Garden Chinese Senior Community Center, Seattle
- Honorable mention: Community Health Worker Initiative—City of St. Cloud Whitney Senior Center, Minnesota
- 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
- Winner: 50+ Senior Tech Connect—City of Albuquerque Department of Senior Affairs, New Mexico
- Honorable mention: Tech Help—Calabasas Senior Center
Social and Support Services
- Winner: Black History Celebration—Sonna Singleton Gregory Senior Center, Ellenwood, Georgia
- Honorable mention: Helping Hands Food Pantry—Franklin County Council on Aging, Inc.
Innovations in Modernization
- Winner: The Road to Happiness—Ela 55+, Ela Township, Illinois
- Honorable mention: Veterans' Gallery—Essex Council on Aging
2021 Programs of Excellence Awards winners
- Winner: 12 Days of Christmas—Norwell Council of Aging, Norwell, Massachusetts
- Honorable mention: Caring Club—Calabasas Senior Center, Calabasas, California
- Winner: Honoring Legacies—Groton Senior Center, Groton, Connecticut
- Honorable mention: Historical Perspectives—Parkville Senior Center, Baltimore County, Maryland
Health and Wellness
- Winner: Elder Day—Seven Oaks Senior Center, Nottingham, Maryland
- Honorable mention: Pea Pods—Duxbury Senior Center, Duxbury, Massachusetts
- Winner: Nutritional Distribution Outreach—The Cheshire Senior Center, Cheshire, Connecticut
- Honorable mention: Grocery Delivery—Eden Prairie Senior Center, Eden Prairie, Minnesota
- Winner: Technology Makers Space—Woodbury Senior Center, Woodbury, Connecticut
- Honorable mention: Tech Talks—Ateaze Senior Center, Baltimore, Maryland
- Winner: Wellness Workshop Without Walls—Whitney Senior Center, St. Cloud, Minnesota
- Honorable mention: Senior Center Without Walls—Sowega Council on Aging, Albany, Georgia
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.