HHSC Announces Innovators in Aging Awardees

News Release
Texas Health and Human Services Commission
Cecile Erwin Young
HHS Executive Commissioner
May 12, 2021
Danielle Pestrikoff , 512-424-6951

AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced today the recipients of the 2020 Innovators in Aging award for making positive impacts on the lives of older adults in Texas.

“Every day across Texas there are many people and organizations working to improve the lives of older Texans. It’s important we recognize them for their contributions and we encourage others to take bold, innovative actions to support their community,” said HHSC Aging Services Coordination Director Holly Riley.

The Innovators in Aging award categories highlight the three components of aging and living well: being healthy, being connected and being informed. HHSC’s awards program, now in its third year, recognizes six recipients — an innovative person, program, organization, community, or technology — from across the state for developing and carrying out new and innovative ideas that meet the needs of older adults.

The 2020 Innovators in Aging are:

  • AMightyGoodTime.com is an easy-to-use event website that helps older adults find a variety of social and wellness opportunities tailored for them. The site features local, national, virtual, and phone-accessible experiences and allows anyone to browse, create, and promote age-friendly events. The site helps older adults find activities and events that are age-friendly all in one place. 
  • Methodist Generations is a free, hospital-based membership program open to anyone 55 and older. The program offers classes to thousands of older adults each month at three of the Methodist Health System hospital campuses. The classes cover topics such as fall prevention, immunity boosting diets, taking care of diabetes, and managing grief. The program also hosts “lunch and learns” and a variety of exercise, yoga, art, and creative writing classes. When COVID-19 cases began occurring, the program transitioned to hosting virtual events to protect participants and staff.
  • Don Smith has served as the director of the Tarrant County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and vice president at the United Way of Tarrant County since 2005. He has 32 years' experience working for public service and governmental organizations, including four Texas AAAs. Under his guidance, United Way and the AAA of Tarrant County have garnered $15 million in funding from various national grants. He also leads the implementation of United Way’s 10-year Healthy Aging and Independent Living Initiative. In January 2017, Don was elected President of Texas Healthy at Home, a corporation providing a statewide, comprehensive array of wellness and social services to support community living. Don is committed to promoting awareness of aging issues for all Texans.
  • Joan Cox has led beginner and intermediate line dancing groups at the South Austin Senior Activity Center since 2001. Cox coordinates weekly classes, lesson plans, and creates instructional videos for at-home participation to help older adults stay active and engaged in a fun way.
  • BakerRipley Dementia Day Center developed two programs to help older adults with dementia and their caregivers maintain physical and emotional well-being during the pandemic. The Virtual Activities and Mobile Respite program offers virtual activities, including short story discussions, word games, and spiritual events. The Mobile Respite program provides 3-hour daily "field trip tours." The tours are limited to 3 people to allow for social distancing and attendees are screened prior to each trip. The tour takes participants to new places around the city while their caregivers receive a break.
  • Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education (GRACE) is a field-based learning program designed to increase social work students’ knowledge of and experience with older adults. GRACE is coordinated by the University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work and implemented by social work field instructors employed at various Austin-area agencies that provide services to older adults. The students’ field experience is complemented by GRACE program educational enrichment events that provide specialized knowledge in areas important to social work practice in gerontology. The St. David’s Foundation supports GRACE scholarships, which are awarded through a competitive process to students at GRACE agencies.

All recipients of the Innovators in Aging award were nominated by their communities. More information about it is available here. Texas residents can also dial 2-1-1 to learn about programs and services for older adults.