Spotlight on Innovation: Peer Mentor Program

Learn how AgeOptions, a 2018 Aging Innovations Award winner, developed a peer mentor program to help older adults living in nursing homes transition back to the community.

We're highlighting the cutting-edge programs and successful strategies used by the 2018 recipients of n4a's Aging Innovations Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week we're focusing on AgeOptions, winner in the Home & Community-Based Services category.
The AgeOptions Transition Engagement Program assists people who are living in nursing homes with relocating to a community-based living setting of their choice. An essential component of the program's success is the Peer Mentor Program, which enlists former nursing home residents who have successfully transitioned to independent community living to serve as ambassadors and motivators to individuals living in nursing homes who are considering making a similar transition.
After reviewing the percentage of individuals in nursing homes who could transition back to the community if connected to the appropriate home and community-based services, AgeOptions interviewed nursing home residents to learn why they did not want to make the transition. Some were unaware of resources for people with disabilities in the community. Others reported that they had never seen someone “like me” transition out of a nursing home. Additionally, some felt that they had lived in nursing homes too long to attempt living on their own.
In 2013 AgeOptions developed partnerships with Healthcare and Family Services, a local organization, as well as local Care Coordination Units and Managed Care Organizations. AgeOptions leveraged these partnerships to recruit individuals who had successfully transitioned from nursing homes to independent living. These individuals gave testimonials about their experiences to nursing home residents who were interested in transitioning back to living in the community. For agencies looking to start a similar program, AgeOptions recommends building relationships with individuals during their transition into the community as a way of learning from them and encouraging them to share their experiences as program volunteers.
As a result of the Peer Mentor Program, more nursing home residents have been motivated to seek housing in the community—and an increased number of nursing home residents have successfully transitioned to living in the community. The Program's peer mentors also are thriving because they are both living independently and giving back to their community through their participation in the program. To support volunteers and provide additional opportunities for one-on-one communication, AgeOptions recently started a focus group for its peer mentors as well as a wellness check process for past program participants. The volunteers are now Peer Ambassadors who conduct quarterly visits to Peer Mentors.
To learn more about this year's winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community!



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!