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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: South Carolina Appalachian Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging

Learn how this agency collaborated with Clemson University's Institute for Engaged Aging and a local municipality to reopen and renovate a closed senior center to house a dementia program and provide resources for family caregivers. 

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 South Carolina Appalachian Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging's Brain Health Club. The agency was a 2020 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Caregiving category. The 2020 AIA Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
 
The South Carolina Appalachian Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging converted a senior center that had been closed into a facility that now houses its Brain Health Club, a dementia program in which trained university students facilitate cognitive and social engagement activities for people living with early to mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD). Congregate meals and exercise classes for older adults and an after-school program for children also are housed in the center, which is a joint effort of South Carolina Appalachian Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging and Dr. Cheryl Dye of the Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging.
 
The Brain Health Club serves approximately 10 people with ADRD twice weekly. Participants enjoy an enhanced quality of life; family caregivers have a respite from caregiving and university students gain valuable experience.
 
“The impact of the Brain Health Club on the community has been extremely positive and motivating. We have volunteers of all ages and walks of life who come together to support attendees. The community outreach has also been a huge part of this program's success, whether it is through a music program, arts and crafts, a devotional or reading a book to our group during book club. These activities inspire, motivate and leave a positive impression on our group,” said Tim Womack, Aging Services Director, South Carolina Appalachian Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging.
 
The Brain Health Club stopped meeting in March 2020 due to COVID-19 and has not re-opened. During that time, the agency-initiated outreach activities in which staff and volunteers went to participants' homes and left care packages at their door. The packages were filled with activity books, coloring books, small puzzles and snacks. The agency also coordinated with other support groups that offered online exercise classes and provided support to caregivers through webinars.
 
To get more details about the Brain Health Club, read our set of case studies, Innovations from the Field: How Area Agencies on Aging and Title VI Programs Address Brain Health. Interested in learning how your agency can replicate this program in your community? Contact Tim Womack, twomack@scacog.org.

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.

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