Avatar of Tom


Double the Impact of SMP Volunteers Is No Longer Beyond Reach!

February 11, 2014 in Engaging Wisdom

What if we could double the number of Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) volunteers and double their impact?  What if SMP combined forces with the PowerUP! initiative from The Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative?   

There are about 5,100 highly trained senior and professional volunteers enrolled in the SMP program.  These volunteers teach others about health care fraud by showing Medicare and Medicaid recipients how to protect their identity, understand Medicare Summary Notices, avoid falling for scams, and detect and report fraud.  Since 1997, these highly trained volunteers have helped produce significant and impressive documented results such as these:

  • Educating over 3.9 million beneficiaries through over 108,000 group education sessions.
  • Counseling over 1.2 million people in one-on-one sessions with or on behalf of a beneficiary.
  • Reaching almost 28 million people through SMP community education events.
  • Helping to save about $112 million Medicare and Medicaid funds through recovery, beneficiary savings, and other documented savings.

But what if there were double the number of volunteers?  Do you think it’s not possible with current funding and staffing constraints?  Think again.  This is where the new volunteer engagement strategy from The Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative, called PowerUP!, fits in.

PowerUP! gives leaders in the aging and disability networks the strategies and tools they need to power up their agencies’ services by tapping the skills and passion of older adult volunteers. It increases these networks’ capacity to respond to resource challenges by releasing the energy of older Americans, currently 40 million strong and growing.

This engagement also supports older adult volunteers in powering up their own skills, health, and lifelong learning. The initiative provides researched and proven volunteer engagement resources including templates, tools, and training for use by local organizations and programs.

The three PowerUP! pilots conducted in 2013 are completed, and this model has proven highly effective!  The PowerUP! Volunteer Engagement System is transformative and win-win for:

  1. n4a as a national leader and innovator in learning how to tap the social capital of older adults,
  2. Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) in becoming the go-to source in communities for mobilizing and engaging a new breed of volunteers in meeting the community’s needs, and for
  3. Network programs like SMP, State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), and National Long-Term Care Ombudsman by increasing their potential capacity and impact.

PowerUP! is not another volunteer training initiative that reformats outdated or traditional knowledge and practices of volunteer engagement.  Rather, it is a new engagement strategy and model based on research and demonstrations specifically tailored to AAAs and Network programs like SMP.  The purpose of PowerUP! is to build new organizational capacities – internal and external – and increase quality services.  When implemented, PowerUP! becomes generative, cost efficient, cost effective, and sustainable, thereby eliminating many of the identified barriers to increasing volunteer engagement.

But how does this new model relate specifically to the SMP program that has clearly defined volunteer roles?  The PowerUP! model is designed to supplement and complement existing, defined roles of SMP volunteers.  How so?  To stimulate your thinking, consider what one SMP program did using the PowerUP! strategy. Their volunteer teams created skits, using actors and a theatrical format, to educate older adults about health care, fraud, consumer issues, and other mishaps. These skits were performed in communities across Vermont. Check out the PowerPoint presentation, online chat, and replication guide from the Vermont SMP Savvy Seniors.

Here are several additional possibilities:

  • A recruitment, screening, and training team of volunteers that could assist with outreach, recruitment, and updating orientation and training.
  • A discovery team to identify and research federal and state policy changes requiring new training or training updates.
  • An innovations team to explore new volunteer roles and ways to organize volunteers to address retention issues such as Volunteer Support Teams.

We are sure you can add to this list of what today’s volunteers can contribute to strengthening and expanding the incredible, essential work of SMP volunteers.

It’s time to put our thinking caps on!  How can we achieve a goal of doubling the number of SMP volunteers and doubling our impact? Please give us your suggestions!

Leave a Reply to Phyllis M. Freed Cancel reply

Name and email are required. In the name field, please enter your first name and last initial.

  1. Phyllis M. Freed says:

    I am the newly hired Coordinator of SMP Volunteers for the State of New Jersey. My manager received this email and I would very much like to learn more about your program. I can be reached at 732-777-1940 ext 1154 or phyllisf@jfvs.org

    I am very excited to learn about your program(s) and how I might contribute and benefit.


    Phyllis M. Freed


Share Your Story

How have volunteers made an impact in your organization or community? Tell us! Submit your story!

Get Our Updates

Learn more about The Aging Network's Volunteer Collaborative. Sign up!