Building a True Partnership to Help Older Adults
Before Kevin Kenney got to know Margaret Lynn Duggar, he got to witness her influence. And it was an impressive sight.
Kenney watched as people approached Duggar with such reverence and respect at the 2019 Florida Council on Aging annual conference. “It was like meeting the pope,” said Kenney, a vice president for Florida Blue Medicare, which partners with the council to help older adults across the state.
Duggar has been an icon in senior services for most of her 76 years, having started as director of the first Meals on Wheels program in Tallahassee. After leaving her career in education, she learned that Tallahassee was launching the program. She figured she could volunteer. When Meals on Wheels was looking for a director, she decided to apply. Much to her surprise, she was hired.
“I knew nothing about nonprofit management,” said Duggar, who was 27 at the time. “And no one knew anything about aging then.”
Not long afterward, the Florida Council on Aging invited her to talk about the Meals on Wheels program. “I’d only been serving meals for six weeks,” she said.
After building that program, she went on to lead both the Area Agency on Aging for North Florida and Elder Care Services. She also served as state director for Aging and Adult Services under two governors. Along the way, she became a powerhouse on senior issues. In 1989, she created Margaret Lynn Duggar & Associates, which has worked with clients around the world. A year later, the agency began serving as the Florida Council on Aging’s management firm.
The council advocates for older adults in the state, including helping secure millions in additional funding from the Florida Legislature last year for care programs and an Alzheimer’s disease initiative. Priorities for the 2021 legislative session include increases for aging and disability resource centers, as well as more state funding for programs to help older adults stay in their homes instead of having to go to a nursing home.
By the time Duggar began working with the council, Florida Blue had already been partnering with the organization for about a decade. Kenney said the company sponsors the council’s annual conference and provides marketing and administrative support, among other things.
Duggar has always appreciated Florida Blue’s efforts, but long felt they weren’t reciprocated by the council. She shared that concern during visits with the company. “I feel you’ve been a great partner,” she would say. “But I think we’d have a better partnership if you got to benefit, as well.”
She said people agreed, but over the years, no one had figured out how to find that balance. Until she met Kenney. When she shared her concerns with him last year, Kenney told her, “We’re going to change that.”
And it has changed. In the past year, the partnership has evolved into a strong collaboration between the council, the company and the Florida Blue Foundation. The work has included educational webinars on important senior issues, a drive-up vaccination clinic at the Nassau Council on Aging, as well as sharing health and wellness blogs and other educational materials created by Florida Blue Medicare with older adults around the state. Plus, Harvey Dikter, president and CEO of GuideWell Source, recently joined the Florida Council on Aging’s board of trustees. (GuideWell Source is a sister company to Florida Blue.)
“I have infused it into every aspect of my workday,” Kenney said of the partnership. “I look for opportunities for us to collaborate or support a community provider.”
Both Duggar and Kenney say those efforts will continue to grow as the partnership gets even stronger. A true partnership, where both sides benefit. And more importantly, a partnership that benefits older adults around the state.
Filed under: Medicare