Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative
- Need: To help rural, low-income older adults in rural Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota maintain their independence and improve their health and well-being.
- Intervention: The Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative improves service coordination, promotes social engagement, and provides programs like healthy cooking classes and caregiver support.
- Results: Phase I served more than 1,550 vulnerable older adults in 80 communities, who reported lower stress and better quality of life.
Older adults in rural areas can struggle to access
aging-related services, transportation to medical
appointments, and social opportunities. To support older
adults living in Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota,
Lutheran Services in America created the Great Plains
Senior Services Collaborative. The Collaborative is
geared toward older adults living alone, who often are
living with multiple comorbidities and/or have high
levels of social isolation and depression.
The Collaborative brings together needed training,
technology, and creative sources of funding – all of
which are too often in short supply in rural America. It
combines outside funding and expertise with strategic
rural partners to improve seniors' health and well-being.
The first phase of the collaborative (2015-2018), which
served Minnesota and North Dakota, was funded by a $2.5
million grant from a national philanthropic partner.
Phase II began in 2019 with an additional $3.4 million
grant and expanded to include Montana.
This collaborative offers the following programs:
Aging Life Care Management in
Minnesota and North Dakota — connects participants with
an advisor to navigate later life care. Services
include care coordination, crisis management, patient
advocacy, and transitional care.
At Home in Montana — a membership
program that provides access to educational programs,
fitness clubs, home maintenance, computer support, and
Friends in the Kitchen in Minnesota —
teaches participants how to cook healthy meals on a
limited budget and how to cook if they have limited
mobility (on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic)
LSS Meals in Minnesota – provides
meals and groceries "to-go" or delivery for older
adults and families in need
Remote Caregiver in Minnesota and
North Dakota — uses technology to support senior
caregivers as they take care of older loved ones
Volunteer Companions in North Dakota —
provide social engagement and help with household
Phase I, which targeted seniors in Minnesota and North
Dakota, helped improve the health and quality of life for
over 1,550 older adults in 80 rural communities in each
state. More than 130 partners and stakeholders were
actively engaged in the Collaborative's related programs.
Volunteers (including 25 Volunteer Companions) logged in
over 6,000 hours and 63,000 miles. An evaluation of the
participants found that:
- 88.4% of participants reported improved health and
quality of life
- 90.2% reported reduced stress
- 96.5% reported that the program improved their
- 98.6% described the program as
Phase II expands the Collaborative's reach to include
Montana (with Collaborative members providing services in
33 communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana).
In Phase II, Collaborative members partner with North
Dakota State University and the nonprofit Wilder Research
for program evaluation and sustainability. Results will
be available in early 2022.
The programs delivered through this Collaborative are
reaching some of the lowest-income, most vulnerable
seniors in the service area. As a result, program
interventions frequently last longer than originally
anticipated and, in some cases, a broader set of services
is required. This affects how many caseloads can be taken
on and how many people can be served.
Additionally, program sustainability is a challenge,
especially in rural communities. To achieve success,
programs need to focus on creatively engaging new funding
sources and standardizing programs to help with
efficiency and service delivery scaling. Focused time and
effort are required to achieve sustainability, and access
to outside technical expertise plays an important role in
providing a framework for creating new financial
partnerships with health systems and other payers.
In smaller rural areas, even well-intended programs
designed to fill community gaps cannot happen without
local stakeholders, so it's important to invest in them.
Developing local partnerships takes time and flexibility,
and results are not immediate.
Technology infrastructure for client tracking and
follow-up is recommended. Technology equipment and
internet access is also needed for access to virtual
programs, and funds are needed to provide and deliver
Aging and aging-related services
Community and faith-based initiatives
Community engagement and volunteerism
Social determinants of health
Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota
November 5, 2019
Date updated or reviewed
November 3, 2020
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 2 February 2023]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.