HHSC Recognizes Recipients of the Innovators in Aging Award

News Release
Texas Health and Human Services Commission
Cecile Erwin Young
HHS Executive Commissioner
May 3, 2022
Ty Bishop, 512-424-6951

AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission today announced the recipients of the 2021 Innovators in Aging award. The award recognizes organizations and people who have made positive impacts on the lives of older adults in Texas.

According to census data projections, there are approximately 9.2 million Texans age 50 and older. This population is expected to increase to 11.1 million people by 2030. As the aging population in Texas quickly grows, so does the need for enhanced efforts to help older adults age and live well. The Innovators in Aging awards program, now in its fourth year, highlights recipients from across the state for developing and carrying out innovative ideas that meet the needs of older adults.

"It is important that we celebrate the contributions of those working to improve the lives of older Texans,” said HHSC Aging Services Coordination Director Holly Riley. “We hope these efforts will encourage others to take bold, innovative actions to support this important population."

The 2021 Innovators in Aging award recipients are:

  • Carissa Nair: The high school student from Houston created a comprehensive statistical survey to determine how the pandemic impacted residents of long-term care facilities. Based on the survey results, she developed a resource with best practices on mood-elevation techniques to help older adults cope during the pandemic. She also created and delivered 50 mental wellness kits that contained activities for residents, including journals and scrapbooking materials.
  • Austin Speech Labs: Austin Speech Labs provides affordable speech therapy services to stroke survivors who are uninsured or have exhausted their insurance benefits. To keep fees low, the program used volunteers and graduate students who, under the supervision of licensed therapists, provide thousands of therapy hours each year. Clients can receive therapy in the office or from their home via teletherapy. The program also offers support services for caregivers, including respite and support groups.
  • Alamo Area Council of Governments: The AACOG implemented a comprehensive communications campaign to encourage older adults in the San Antonio area to get COVID-19 vaccinations. The 12-week campaign included 30-second PSA videos that featured local leaders showing their Texas pride by getting vaccinated. AACOG also created English and Spanish ads for social media, TV, radio and newspapers in San Antonio and surrounding areas. In 11 of the 12 targeted counties for the PSAs, more than 70 percent of residents age 65 and older received at least one COVID-19 vaccine.

All recipients of the Innovators in Aging award were nominated by people in their communities. More information about the award is available on the Innovators in Aging webpage. To learn about programs and services for older adults, Texas residents can call 2-1-1.