News

Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Age Strong Commission

Learn how this Massachusetts AAA created a six-week educational program designed to help older adults in its community better understand how local and federal government works and develop skills to advocate for aging-related issues important to them.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2020 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on Age Strong Commission's Boston Senior Civic Academy program. The agency was a 2020 Aging Innovations Award winner in the Advocacy category. The 2020 AIA Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
 
Boston's Senior Civic Academy is a six-week, 30-hour program that educates and empowers adults age 50 and older to advocate for themselves and their peers about issues related to aging in Boston. The Academy focuses on advocacy at the city, state and federal levels, and engages participants in developing public-speaking, information-gathering and networking skills.
 
Age Strong Commission, Boston's Area Agency on Aging, developed the curriculum for the Academy through a partnership with the UMass Boston Gerontology Institute. The Academy provides participants with information about local government, skill building activities and networking opportunities with elected officials. An outreach plan ensures participants are recruited from different neighborhoods and diverse backgrounds, and participants are surveyed about topics of interest to ensure the program includes information that is relevant to them. Capping off the program, during a graduation ceremony, participants make a two-minute advocacy “pitch” for the policy issue of their choice.
 
Evaluation results indicate participants gained familiarity with and confidence in advocating at various levels of government. After completing the six-week program, all 50 graduates continue to be civically engaged, with many advocating for a village model in the community and for a variety of bills at the State House.

Age Strong Commission postponed the spring 2020 in-person program in response to the pandemic. Staff are currently exploring the possibility of adapting the Academy to a virtual platform.
 
Boston's Senior Civic Academy is also highlighted in the engAGING Practices: Best Practices for Helping Older Adults Stay Socially Engaged publication from engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults (administered by n4a). This resource highlights best practices implemented by 11 programs to help others within the Aging Network enhance social engagement among older adults in their communities.
 
Learn more about the program in the Bay State Banner and the Gerontology Institute Blog. Questions? Contact Alison Freeman, alison.freeman@boston.gov.
 
For more information about the 2020 winners, see the press release and read the book of winners! To read about past winners and find other best practices for your agency to consider, visit our Best Practices Clearinghouse page.

Contributors