Healthy Aging with CIP Grants
There is a good reason they’re called the golden years. After retirement, people are meant to slow down and enjoy the little things in life: family, friendships, and the gift of each new day. However, many are not able to savor these things due to financial or medical problems.

September is Healthy Aging Month, an opportunity to showcase Elks Lodges that use CIP grants to help seniors in their communities live healthier, fuller lives. In some cases, Elks provide food and other essentials to those experiencing financial difficulty; in others, Lodges host social events to give seniors much-needed connection. With the help of CIP grants, Lodges can meet the needs of this population.

Blue Springs, Mo., Lodge No. 2509 has a long-running partnership with two low-income senior housing facilities in its area. The Lodge started a tradition of serving holiday meals to residents decades ago, and they expanded the project with CIP grants. Since 2013, the Lodge has used grants to help the facility develop a garden and host movie and game nights.

Its biggest effort, though, has been offering food support. The facility sometimes struggles to get perishable food items, which the Lodge has used Beacon and Spotlight Grants to provide since 2020.

Starting with one program and earning the trust of the residents and employees has enabled the Lodge to provide many years of support, with more to come.

“The Lodge has been working with these facilities since before I became an Elk 15 years ago,” says Grants Coordinator Curt Zoller. “We’re happy and they’re happy if we can keep doing what we’re doing.”

Waukesha, Wis., Lodge No. 400 uses its Gratitude Grant to host a dinner and dance for seniors in its community. The Lodge provides a full, nutritious dinner, and the opportunity to dance to a 15-piece band playing swing and big band music.

Isolation is often a problem for seniors, and it can be worsened by a lack of mobility. The Waukesha Lodge developed this project with an emphasis on meeting local seniors’ physical and social needs.

“I was just thinking after the pandemic, when everyone was stuck in their houses, what can we do so people would want to come out and be with other people,” Grants Coordinator Mary Ellen Ruzga told the Waukesha Freeman newspaper. “I said ‘well, what’s fun?’ People love music and people love to dance.”

At last year’s inaugural event, the interest in the project nearly overwhelmed the Lodge. While they were expecting 100 attendees, more than 200 showed up. Part of that interest may have been due to booking the Jack Farina Big Band, which has a Grateful Dead-like following among the swing band crowd in southern Wisconsin.

This year, the Waukesha Lodge is planning to repeat the project’s success, as well as plan for a larger crowd. After receiving all three of the bonuses associated with the Gratitude Grant, the Lodge has $3,500 to support the event, where it hopes to host around 200 seniors.

South Kingstown, R.I., Lodge No. 1899 uses its Impact Grant for its Home Maintenance and Repair Assistance Program which helps maintain and renovate the homes of seniors with changing needs in its community. HoRAP is publicized through the town’s website and community senior center to not only connect seniors to the program, but to garner support from the community. This past quarter, the South Kingstown Lodge had two ramps donated from the community and was able to modify and install them at homes of seniors who needed them. One recipient had recently begun using a walker, and she found newfound independence with the ramp.

“She was absolutely thrilled,” said Project Manager Ken Kenerson. “Once we installed the ramp with a landing, she could easily leave her home and enjoy the flower gardens in her yard.”

Healthy aging can mean many things, and it doesn’t apply only to those in their golden years. By working to better the lives of children or adults of any age, an Elks Lodge will contribute to the healthy aging of its community.

CIP grant applications are open through January 17, 2024. For more information on the grants we offer, check out our Grant Toolkits. The CIP can be reached with any questions at 773/755-4730 or