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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio

Learn how this Ohio AAA developed an advocacy campaign to help area businesses and organizations recognize the impact family caregiving has on the regional workforce and how AAAs help family caregivers stay in the workforce.

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 Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio's Building the AAA's Value in the Business Community 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.
 
Local business leaders often do not realize that the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio (COA) supports a population that extends beyond older adults. To address this issue, COA developed an advocacy campaign to help area businesses and organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce recognize the impact family caregiving has on the regional workforce and how AAAs help family caregivers stay in the workforce. The campaign includes Care Census, a company-specific research project to help businesses understand the time and resource demands their employees face.
 
“The most successful part of this program is helping our community understand the value of their AAA. This is particularly true in our community where local tax levies provide most of the funding for senior services. Voters and taxpayers need to understand that when they vote yes for a senior services tax levy, it benefits the entire community, not just older adults,” said Paula Smith, Communications Manager at COA.
 
An extensive social media and email campaign centers on the economic, personal and professional impact of caregiving on the workforce. Nine videos incorporate the stories of real working caregivers to further convey the impact of caregiving on the workforce—and how COA can support area business employees who are also caregivers. The 164,500+ views of caregiver videos and 1,000 responses to the Care Census demonstrate that the campaign is helping businesses understand how caregiving impacts their workforces. COA has held 16 employer-based education events and has sent 77,000 executive emails with a 22 percent open rate and 20,700 LinkedIn InMails with a 48 percent open rate.
 
“At the time we launched this program, the local Chamber of Commerce had failed to endorse the senior services tax levy. This was a pivotal moment for our organization because we realized there was a disconnect in our business community. The business community did not understand how this levy—and in turn, their AAA—impacted their workforce,” Smith added.  
 
COA set out to help local businesses and employers understand that senior services tax levies help their employees stay on the job, instead of being sidelined by elder caregiving responsibilities. As COA partnered with businesses on this project, they began to see the organization not only as a resource for their staff, but also as an advocate for the needs of older adults and caregivers in the community.
 
“Another facet of this project is collecting and sharing the stories of local working caregivers. These real-life stories help people understand the challenges faced by today's working caregivers. It was a pleasure to work with each family to capture and tell their stories. We laughed and cried throughout the process,” said Smith.  
 
Using the momentum of the 2020 Census, COA was set to launch a second wave of the Care Census with area employers, but the COVID-19 pandemic shifted priorities. With many caregivers working remotely and under social distancing orders that may prevent them from visiting older loved ones, working caregivers are facing new challenges. The Care Census is as relevant as ever and remains part of COA's strategic priorities.
 
This project is easily replicable by drawing on organizational board and advisory council connections. Project staff will need access to a variety of inexpensive, easy-to-use online survey and email marketing tools and free social media accounts.
 
Read COA's press release to learn more about the Building the AAA's Value in the Business Community program. Questions? Contact Paula Smith at psmith@help4seniors.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 page.

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