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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Baltimore County Department on Aging

Learn how this agency used an online health and well-being assessment to identify physical, mental, financial and social needs of lower-income and diverse older adults, which then determined the need to expand services and programs to these underrepresented groups.

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 the Baltimore County Department of Aging's Adult Well-Being AssessmentThe agency was a 2020 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Healthy Aging category. The 2020 AIA Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
 
The Baltimore County Department of Aging (BCDA) used the Adult Well-Being Assessment (AWA) to rate how senior center members felt about their quality of life, financial situation, physical health, mental health and more. The assessment also revealed inequities in access to programming and fitness facilities among low-income and African American older adults. BCDA used the assessment data to provide targeted, additional programming support and funding at senior centers in areas where the highest number of individuals reported that their physical health was “suffering.” By using a data-driven approach, the AAA is assured that their resources are going to those most in need of services.
 
“The most successful part of using the Adult Well-Being Assessment was the ease in collecting a large amount of self-reported data (over 10,000 surveys each year). The tool is very user-friendly and able to be completed in many ways—online, telephone, printed—thus resulting in a very large data set of surveys each year,” said Jill Hall, Division Chief at BCDA. “Having such a large amount of data allowed us to look closely at the socio-demographic drivers which impact a person's quality of life and make targeted decisions regarding programming and facility access for underserved populations.”
 
BCDA provided additional programming support, funded the construction of a fitness center, expanded operating hours and lowered age eligibility to 50 years and older at the senior centers identified by the assessment. These efforts to improve physical health outcomes resulted in increases in “thriving” scores and decreases in “suffering” scores.
 
“In the past, we would have made financial decisions based on broad assumptions of need, but the AWA enabled us to know exactly where our money should be allocated to make the biggest impact and ensure equitable access to county programs and facilities,” Hall added.
 
When COVID-19 hit, the AWA provided BCDA with a tool to quickly identify those individuals who rated themselves as being lonely and socially isolated, as well as those in poorer financial health. BCDA staff were able to reach out to these individuals quickly to determine what supports and resources they would need during the ongoing pandemic.
 
“The AWA is usually completed in person during our annual registration process. During the pandemic, we completed the data using an online format. We wanted to get a “snapshot” into how people were doing during this time of isolation, but we recognized that many of our members do not have access to computers or internet. As a result, we will go back to using the in-person process when the centers re-open,” stated Hall.
 
To learn more about using the Adult Well-Being Assessment to assess quality of life of older adults and how you can replicate a similar program in your community, contact Jill Hall, jphall@baltimorecountymd.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.

Interested in receiving an AIA Award for your agency's program? The 2021 AIA Awards nominations process is now open. Read our nominations process guide and consider submitting some of your programs before the March 26 deadline.

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