Photo:  Jim Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging

Improving the Lives of Millions of Older Adults

Posted on August 12, 2019 by Jim Firman
Editor's Note: Jim Firman is president and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA). NCOA is taking action to convene thought leaders, create solutions for impact, and improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling.

For older adults, social determinants of health such as access to housing, food, financial resources, and transportation as well as social connections play a critical role not only in better health outcomes but also in improving overall well-being. Within this context, the National Council on Aging’s (NCOA) vision is a just and caring society in which each of us, as we age, lives with dignity, purpose, and security. To this end, NCOA is leading an effort to form the Aging Hub of the 100 Million Healthier Lives (100MLives) initiative, a national partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

The 100MLives is a collaboration of change agents across sectors working to improve health, well-being, and equity to get to breakthrough results. The Patterson Foundation (TPF) provided NCOA with essential enterprise-level support to launch the Aging Hub and convene a gathering of thought leaders to begin exploring ways to move forward. Because of the foundation’s involvement, the Aging Hub is a part of NCOA’s commitment, through collaborative leadership, to improve the lives of older Americans, especially those who are struggling financially and with their health.

In addition to financial support, NCOA benefited greatly from TPF’s help in connecting to partners from the Sarasota Department of Health and expertise in helping NCOA test an assessment tool to measure the quality of life of aging individuals as part of a broader community assessment. This effort promotes the adoption of science-based, common metrics to measure what matters and assess the well-being of older adults while addressing barriers to quality of life, including social and behavioral determinants of health (SBDH).

By testing, evaluating and sharing information about what matters to older individuals, TPF is helping to raise awareness and scale best practices to help support NCOA’s goal to improve the lives of 40M older adults by 2030. The foundation’s staff have been at the table with a range of stakeholders to advise on decisions that will shape our approach to measuring what matters on a national scale.

TPF not only participated in the 100MLives Fall Gathering in San Diego but has proactively opened doors and exposed NCOA and the Aging Hub to other potential funders. One outcome has been an upcoming webinar hosted by Grantmakers in Aging to promote awareness of the Aging Hub and the importance of common measurement for older adult well-being.

During our 2019 Age+Action Conference in Washington, DC, TPF leaders shared a preview of cutting-edge results that build cohesiveness and integrity of community information through survey work in Sarasota. They supported us by delivering presentations, facilitating lively discussions with conference participants, and contributing to our 178.7M social media impressions.

One important benefit from working closely with TPF is sharpening our focus on the importance of leveraging social media influencers to amplify our message about new projects such as the Aging Hub through social medial channels. We are grateful to TPF for playing this role in our process as we move this strategy forward, and we will continue to embrace this work further in the coming year.

NCOA is also supported by TPF’s understanding that measuring what matters for aging adults is critically important as we build a just society. I cannot overstate the value to me and to my colleagues at NCOA of knowing that there is a smart team of people at TPF who believe in us, embraces our goals, and provides informed, strategic advice.

Partnering with foundations like TPF that use a bold approach has given us an opportunity to activate our strategy to measure what matters, innovate proven solutions bringing them to scale, and empower us to lead the Aging Hub. I believe that our work together is an important example of how nonprofit organizations and foundations can collaborate to achieve next-level impact at a scale not possible without cross-sector collaboration.

Through our partnership, both organizations have experienced the great satisfaction that comes from embracing the “art of the possible,” and we look forward to the next steps in this journey to improve the lives of older adults.

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