Illinois Senior Medicare Patrol at AgeOptions is celebrating 25 years of empowering consumers throughout the state to prevent, detect and report health care fraud. We work with 15 statewide agencies that help carry out our message through outreach and one on one counseling.
The Illinois SMP relies heavily on our volunteers throughout the state. Our volunteers help with education outreach, peer to peer consouling and advocating for other older adults. We currently have 34 active volunteers in Illinois. We sat down with Jordan Stewart, a volunteer from White Crane Wellness Center and the City Of Chicago, and Denise Boyle, a volunteer from AgeOptions, for interviews about their experience with the Illinois SMP and what it means to them.
Marina Silva (MS): What was your profession before volunteering?
Jordan Stewart (JS): I retired from the postal service that I worked for 45-46 years in January of 2008. I was a supervisor my last 10-12 years there.
Denise Boyle (DB):I was a 5th through 8th grade Science/Math teacher then became principal. I also served as the teacher's union president at one point!
MS: What made you interested in volunteering/how long have you been volunteering for?
JS: I retired and asked myself “what am I going to do”? I saw an ad in a paper at a senior citizen center looking for volunteers, and I started volunteering in 2008-2009.
DB:After I retired, I needed something else to absorb. I saw an ad for economic security, which was a program at AgeOptions long ago; however, that program was going through some changes, so I started training with Jason through SMP 1-2 days a week, then later I added BEC volunteer to my title. Through my volunteering, I am able to have individuals shadow me, which reminds me of teaching. There is always re-learning through changes. Friends ask for advice, and I am able to direct them to the help they need. I enjoy doing what I am doing, and I have been a volunteer for about 10 years now.
MS: What is rewarding about volunteering with SMP Program?
JS I learn A LOT. I love the team I work with – everyone is cordial and mesh well to work together. It is a great joy working with older adults and giving them all the information to prevent them from fraud and give them access to the benefits they deserve. I gave my first virtual presentation alongside Michae Svete from White Crane Wellness Center due to COVID-19 and it was a learning experience. There was a lot of good conversation, and we reached 10-15 individuals. We used the newest SMP presentations and it was neat to educate from a new platform while still being able to educate the same mission. I love helping people especially seniors – you encounter older adults who may have a language barrier or lack of education. You reach a broad range of individuals, and you are enhancing your life while enhancing the lives of others. White Crane is amazing, and a great experience working with others. SMP is a great program to help others become aware of what scams are out there since nowadays social media just amplifies scams. I LOVE interacting with individuals and studying/reading to bring something new to the table. It is a “joyous experience”.
DB:It is a chance to be of service – for seniors – unaware of what’s available to them. I have the ability to apply them to a variety of programs. It is rewarding to help people and improve life-changing aspects. Older adults are flabbergasted at what is available to them. An individual would not even know where to begin/what to look for, and it is a remarkable experience. It is so wonderful to know you are able to help since at times it is hard for seniors to admit that there are challenges to family and friends. So, it is rewarding being able to help those who are at the very edge.
MS: What do you hope to see in the future for SMP?
DB: Well, we already expanded to libraries, which serves a dual purpose (group activity and education). I would like to see benefits more in communities where there is an abundance of seniors. It would also be nice to grow/share our message on TV since not everyone has access to social media/internet. So, sharing our message on channels that older adults tend to watch would be beneficial.
I also have found that seniors who attend are so much more knowledgeable. For example, they might learn that they need a safe space for important documents or not to carry their social security card around. There is definitely an increased improvement in the message, and people need to realize that Medicare fraud is a thing. They also need to understand that Medicare will not call you directly! This is a message that needs to be emphasized to everyone! SMP has made much progress in the last 5 years in particular.
I would like to personally thank Jordan and Denise, all of our past and present volunteers, and all of our partners for carrying out the mission of Detect, Protect and Report for the past 25 years. Without the hard work and dedication of our volunteers, we would not have nearly the success that we have now.