A New Challenge Will Award $2 Million to Projects That Help Senior Citizens Stay Healthy as They Age

Four winning proposals will each be awarded $500,000 toward implementation.
Senior Citizens

PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

The Henry L. Hillman Foundation has announced a new challenge that aims to improve the lives of older adults in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Through the Healthy Aging Challenge, a total of $2 million will be awarded to four winning proposals for community projects in the region. It’s one of the first open prize competitions of this size in the U.S., and the first to focus specifically on Pennsylvania.

“By 2030, the over-65 population in southwestern Pennsylvania will grow by 40%,” said David K. Roger, president of the Hillman Family Foundations, in the statement. “The Healthy Aging Challenge is an opportunity not only to recognize novel solutions to issues facing older adults, but also a one-of-a-kind chance for partners across our region to share knowledge about how we can best serve our seniors.”

Proposals will be judged on how they would transform lives, their feasibility, equitability and scalability. Each successful idea will receive $500,000 toward its implementation. 

Eligible lead organizations must be a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, although for-profit entities, government agencies, individuals and educational institutions can serve as partners on a proposal. Each team must also include at least one member from a community impacted by the proposed project, such as an older adult or a caregiver. 

Teams submitting proposals are required to participate in peer-to-peer review of other applicants’ proposals. This will comprise the initial rounds of judging for the challenge, before finalist proposals are submitted to an evaluation panel consisting of local and national thought leaders, issue experts and community advocates. 

The four winning teams will also be expected to form a learning cohort to help one another continuously refine and improve their projects during implementation.

Studies have shown that older adults with positive attitudes toward aging display better physical, cognitive and mental health; higher self-efficacy; and lower rates of decline. Similarly, negative age stereotypes and self-perceptions are linked to worsening health conditions in seniors, and a meta-analysis of studies on the benefit that volunteering has on older adults found it decreases the risk of mortality by more than 20% among adults over 55.

The region will also see a 75% increase in people ages 85+ between 2030 and 2045, according to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Partnership for Aging. Organizations working toward increasing the accessibility of the region for older Pennsylvanians see this demographic shift as both an opportunity and a catalyst for action.

Proposals for the Healthy Aging Challenge can focus on — but are not limited to — age-friendly community development, age-friendly economic development, civic participation and volunteerism for older adults, intergenerational programming, reducing ageism and social isolation, skill-building and employment for professional caregivers, technology for caregivers or technology for older adults.

“Henry Hillman valued the importance of innovation — not just in technology, but in delivery and organization — in the health and social sectors to help improve quality of life,” Roger said. “The Healthy Aging Challenge is designed to further that legacy through partnership with some of our region’s leading innovators.”

The competition asks organizations that meet the eligibility criteria to register by April 12 at 5 p.m., and submit their application by May 10 at 5 p.m. Judging will continue through the summer, with the four winners expected to be announced in August or September.

Categories: The 412