Council on Aging (COA) and its partner, the Live Well Collaborative, recently received a first place 2023 dmi:Design Value Award from the Design Management Institute (DMI). The award acknowledges organizations that have made significant contributions to the field of design and have demonstrated a commitment to improving people’s lives through design excellence. COA and Live Well received the award for work on a project that sought to redesign the way meal programs are delivered to older adults through select Council on Aging programs.
COA serves more than one million meals annually to older adults in southwestern Ohio. However, meals programs nationally have faced significant challenges due to the growing aging population, increased demand caused by the pandemic, the rising costs of goods and services, and other changes within the meal-delivery industry. To overcome these challenges, COA partnered with the multidisciplinary team of faculty and students from the University of Cincinnati’s Live Well Collaborative to conduct a holistic review of the program with an eye towards modernization. The project became known as Meals and More.
“The recognition of a first-place Design Value Award is a reflection of COA’s commitment to transformational change in the way it provides services to older adults,” said Linda Dunseath, chief operating officer and executive director at Live Well. “The Meals and More program is a prime example of this. COA’s proactive approach to addressing the increase in the aging population, plus addressing nutritional and social needs exemplifies its commitment to addressing its constituents’ needs.”
The Meals and More team focused on evaluating COA’s existing home-delivered meals and congregate meal programs funded by Title III and county senior services tax levies (Elderly Services Programs), identifying opportunities for improvements and new services, creating and refining program and service specifications, and developing an implementation strategy. The team also held a summit that included community chefs, restaurant and healthcare representatives, as well as current contracted providers of the meal programs. The summit was followed by a focus group to discuss key opportunities and implementation barriers.
“When it comes to meals and many other home- and community-based services, the older adults we’re serving today want more choice and control in their daily routine,” said Ken Wilson, COA’s vice president of program operations. “At the same time, we’re faced with unprecedented demand for services and increasing costs. The Meals and More project helped us look at our meals program through a modern, innovative lens and will help position us to provide more, high-quality options for older adults in the future.”
The Meals and More project generated several innovative ideas that COA will look to implement across its provider network now and in the coming months and years, including:
- The addition of grocery delivery services (i.e., Boost/Instacart) for grocery ordering and delivery to homebound clients.
- Increasing the number of congregate meal locations where meals are prepared on-site (v using prepackaged meals) with new a la carte items such as salad bars.
- The addition of restaurant-style congregate meals prepared by local chefs and restaurants to offer ethnic meal options such as Asian, Mediterranean, southern soul food, and American homestyle.
- Expanding existing home-delivered meals providers into new territories to offer older adults additional choice in their meal provider.
- Advocated for state and federal rule changes that would allow flexibility for clients to select regular or therapeutic meals to meet their dietary needs.
- Partnering with meal providers to offer more meals at community-based locations such as local libraries.
- Innovating with providers to decrease food waste, enhance freshness and expand options for congregate meal participants to use e-cards at area restaurants.
“Live Well has been partnering with COA since 2019 to bring new and innovative approaches to the way they provide services to older adults in Southwestern Ohio,” said Live Well’s Dunseath. “What has made this relationship so special is the passion COA associates have for the work that they do by co-creating solutions with us that are truly life-changing.”
About the award
The 2023 dmi:Design Value Awards recognize teams that have delivered significant value through excellence in Design or Design Management practices. The 2023 Design Value Award winners are exemplars in their fields; they are a distinguished list of organizations that include non-profit entities, government agencies, large multinationals, and regional enterprises.