Archive January 2024

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National Rural Age-Friendly Initiative Call for Submissions

The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) has partnered with The John A. Hartford Foundation to improve access to resources for rural healthy aging and age-inclusive care by engaging stakeholders and disseminating important information as part of the National Rural Age-Friendly Initiative. USAging serves on the Initiative interest group to determine priorities and best practices for aging rural communities.

If your agency has programs, models or policies aimed at enhancing the quality of aging in rural communities, please complete this submission form to be included in NRHA’s rural-healthy-aging best practices compendium. The deadline for submissions is February 8. 

#USAgingHere4You: Mary Ek

Mary Ek joined USAging in 2021 and serves as Director for Dementia Friendly America (DFA), Dementia Friends and Community Care Corps. In this role she supports Community Care Corps grantees, dementia-friendly communities and Dementia Friends administrators by providing technical assistance, facilitating learning collaboratives and webinars and managing the development and sharing of resources.
Prior to joining USAging, Mary spent 20 years in the field of education. During that time, she worked in special education, English as a second language (ESL) and elementary education as a high school director, education consultant and school workplace culture consultant. After working in education, she was asked to serve as the project manager for ACT on Alzheimer’s, a Minnesota statewide dementia friendly initiative from which Dementia Friendly America was born.
“I’m so glad I said, ‘Yes!’ back in 2011 and am even more thrilled to be part of USAging and Dementia Friendly America. It’s so exciting to see how DFA has grown and to now be part of this amazing network!”
What Mary loves most about working at USAging is her colleagues. She says USAging has a great staff that is incredibly committed to supporting older adults and people with disabilities and thinks it is a privilege to work here. In addition, she hopes she can make a difference in the Aging Network by supporting DFA in realizing its vision of an America where individuals living with dementia and their care partners can live, engage and thrive in community no matter where they live.
“DFA has great resources and a growing network of individuals, communities and organizations committed to this work. If I don’t have an answer, I can almost always connect folks with someone in the network who does!”
In addition to working at USAging, Mary is a birth and postpartum doula. Her favorite TV series is Call the Midwife, and her favorite books are Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

To learn more about Dementia Friendly America, Dementia Friends and Community Care Corps, visit USAging’s website, email and, or consider contacting Mary and her team. 
USAging’s Dementia Friendly America, Dementia Friends and Community Care Corps Team

New Year, Same Problems: Government Shutdown, CR or Full-Year Budget?

Earlier this week, Congress announced a deal on topline spending numbers, frozen at last year’s debt limit levels, kick starting the negotiation process for the final appropriations bills. The deal establishes an overall spending budget for FY 2024, allocating $886 billion to military spending and $704 billion for non-defense discretionary spending.  
Currently, the government is funded by an unusual Continuing Resolution (CR) with two deadlines, January 19 and February 2. Without a funding solution by February 2, funding for Labor/HHS and the rest of the government will lapse.  
Talks are still ongoing and three outcomes remain: a full or partial government shutdown, another CR or, the best-case scenario, a final budget. Congress is likely to pass another short-term CR to buy more time to draft the final funding bills, with bipartisan support from the Senate. However, House Republicans are more inclined to pass either an appropriations bill or a year-long CR. The latter is not a good option, as it would trigger a one percent across-the-board cut, thanks to last May’s debt ceiling deal.  

#USAgingHere4You: Meredith Hanley

Meredith Hanley joined USAging in 2016 and serves as Program Director. In this role, Meredith oversees engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults, Commit to Connect and USAging’s role in the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network: A National Technical Assistance Center.
Prior to joining USAging, Meredith worked for the Aging and Disability Services Division of Arlington County, VA, where she oversaw program performance metrics and quality improvement for the Division and worked on a variety of special projects. She has also served as the Co-Director of the Gero-Ed Center at the Council on Social Work and worked as a contractor for the Administration on Aging’s Alzheimer’s disease demonstration grant program through RTI International.
“I grew up with older neighbors, who were my first babysitters (and social outlets too!), in addition to my grandparents. Then in fifth and sixth grade, I volunteered in a nursing home with an “adopted grandparent” program. In high school, I volunteered at a local Continuing Care Retirement Community. By that time some of my older neighbors had moved there, and I was able to re-connect with them. I think these initial opportunities for connection with older adults outside of my family helped to forge my later education and career path.”
Most of Meredith’s work has involved identifying best practices and emerging trends and packaging that information up in new and unique ways and sharing it with the Aging Network to support AAAs and Title VI programs across the country. “I’m always looking for new ideas to bring to our work, and sharing information in the most helpful way possible and ultimately making sure what we produce is useful and impactful in the field.”
“I appreciate the continued evolution and growth of the network. As times evolve, so does the work of AAAs and Title VI programs. Innovation is the lifeline of our work. Everyone is continually striving to improve how we better prepare for, and address community needs, and I find that so inspiring!
Meredith would love to connect with members on a variety of topics! Her current project areas are social engagement and kinship care. She previously worked on Dementia Friendly America, Community Care Corps and the Information and Planning research project. So, discussing intersectional areas is always of interest to her.
To learn more about engAGED, Commit to Connect and the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network visit USAging’s website or contact Meredith and her team. 



USAging Fact: Learn about your peers’ work—and how it can fit into your agency’s goals! The AIA Awards recognizes successful and innovative programs that USAging members have developed to serve older adults. Get inspiration from our 2023 winners!