Area Agency on Aging

area agency on aging logo

Area Agency on Aging of the Heart of Texas
1514 South New Road, Waco, TX 76711
(254) 292-1800

Donnis Cowan, Director of Health and Human Services


The Area Agency on Aging (AAA )of the Heart of Texas provides access to needed social services, effective screening and assessment of individual needs, and advocacy generally to older persons (age 60 and older – with some exceptions), their family members or other caregivers who reside in our six-county region.

Services provided directly by the AAA staff include four core programs – (1) Benefits Counseling, (2) Care Coordination/Caregiver Support Coordination, (3) Healthy Education Program and (4) Long Term Care Ombudsman.  In addition, other services are provided through contracting arrangements.

Authority and Staffing

The Area Agency on Aging of the Heart of Texas  is 1 of 28 Area Agency on Aging contractors designated statewide by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. 

Staffing for AAA:

            Staffing for each program is identified in service descriptions.


HOTCOG wins 2020 NADO Impact award!

The Area Agency on Aging of the Heart of Texas was recognized by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) with its 2020 Aliceann Wohlbruck NADO Impact Award. During the early stages of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, AAA funded the purchase of non-perishable groceries for financially disadvantaged individuals age 60 and older living in the rural areas of the HOTCOG service area. Approximately 800 families had boxes of non-perishable groceries valued at $100 each delivered to their homes at no cost through the efforts of a network of staff, administrators, elected officials and volunteers. Originally, $80,000 was committed to the program, but local suppliers like HEB Grocery, Brookshire Grocery, Sam’s Club and Packless Corporation of America partnered to extend the value of the contribution during this time of food shortage. The program ended up delivering approximately 75 tons of food to families in need. NADO’s Impact Awards program honors members for their creative approaches to advancing regional economic development and improved quality of life.


Area Agency on Aging Services

Benefits Counseling Program

The Benefits Counseling program directly provides financial related assistance and Medicare/Medicaid related help to clients through Legal Assistance (one-on-one) and Legal Awareness events (group presentations). 

The Benefits Counseling Program is directly administered by AAA staff and provides one-on-one legal assistance services to persons age 60 and older and to any adult Medicare recipient regardless of age.  Individualized counseling is offered to those in need of assistance with Medicare Part D Prescription Drug programs, Medigap supplemental insurance, Medicaid estate planning, advanced planning for retirement, health care services, Medicare preventive services, consumer issues and preparation of Advanced Directives.  The program also provides group legal awareness presentations and group education for all ages through community presentations and special events to promote health and wellness, safety, and legal education. 

Legal Assistance  

For many people, the complexities of laws, rules and regulations governing legal, health and financial issues in today’s world are sometimes overwhelming.  Assistance from AAA benefits counseling staff can be helpful to individuals in a personalized and private setting to navigate many of the complicated issues.  

Specific objectives of Legal Assistance:

  • Provide individualized counseling and assistance in understanding the complexities of specific programs for persons 60 and older and Medicare recipients of any age.
  • Provide counseling and assistance regarding public and private benefits, legal documents (advance directives), insurance information, preventive health related services, and representation for administrative hearings and appeals. 

Legal Assistance services provide the older consumer with free individualized help on a variety of matters, including applications for governmental services, choices of health or prescription insurance coverage and choices of how an individual wants to be treated as they near the end of their life. 

Legal Assistance can also provide an advocate to assist or represent an older person in an appeal or hearing when that person believes they have been wrongfully denied a service or benefit.

Legal Awareness

Through the Legal Awareness component of the Benefits Counseling Program, groups of interested persons receive information about many different governmental and private services and benefits.  As laws change and new programs are established, Legal Awareness strives to empower older consumers in group settings through education, information, and self-advocacy.

Specific objectives of Legal Awareness:

  • Provide information in group presentations about Medicare, Medicaid, and many other government programs.
  • Serve as an information link for all ages through educational events and workshops.
  • Encourage the establishment of community resource centers.
  • Foster the creation of regional community partnerships that encourage and support greater public awareness.
  • Train volunteers working throughout our communities to assist with outreach and services.

Staffing for Benefits Counseling:

Jan Enders – Sr. Benefits Counselor

Rose Contreras – Sr. Benefits Counselor


Care Coordination Program

The Care Coordination program which includes care coordination/caregiver support coordination empowers senior citizens 60 and older and their family caregivers to maintain their independence, freedom, and dignity by identifying needs and arranging social services required for living independently.  

The program is broad based and includes care coordination services provided directly by AAA staff and a variety of authorized related services contracted by AAA through local service providers                                   

In Care Coordination a AAA case manager personally assesses the social service needs of a client with the client to identify, plan, arrange, authorize, coordinate, and follow-up on needed contracted services which can include: 

  • Personnel Assistance - a case manager arranges for short-term services to assist clients with bathing, dressing, toileting, light house cleaning, and meal preparation.  This covers hands-on assistance in all activities of daily living.
  • Homemaker - a case manager arranges for short-term services to assist clients with light house cleaning, errands, and meal preparation.   
  • Income Support - a case manager arranges for the purchase of appliances (refrigerator/freezer, washer/dryer, microwaves, freestanding ranges, stove tops, and window ac units).
  • Home Repairs/Modifications - a case manager focuses primarily on contracted repairs/modifications that improve accessibility, structure, safety, and weatherization of the home for low-income homeowners 60 and older that are living in unsafe and/or unhealthy environments.
  • Health Maintenance -  a case manager arranges for the purchase of durable medical equipment that enables clients to be more independent and assists them with their daily activities.
  • Respite - a case manager arranges for short-term relief to caregivers.  Services are provided in the client’s home environment on a short term, temporary (6 months maximum) basis while the caregiver is unavailable or needs relief.  This service also allows the caregiver to take care of themselves, so they are better able to sustain care for their loved one over an extended period.
  • Caregiver Education and Training - AAAHOT subcontracts with Oliver Counseling to provide dementia related counseling to caregivers to assist in making decisions and solving problems relating to their caregiver roles.  This includes counseling for dementia related illnesses for individuals, support groups, and caregiver training for individual caregivers and families.                   

Staffing for Care Coordination:

Destiny Zavalla – Senior Care Coordinator

Health Education Programs

Health Education Programs provided by the Area Agency on Aging are classes that are evidence-based.  Since 2003, the aging services network has been steadily moving towards wider implementation of disease prevention and health promotion programs that are based on scientific evidence and demonstrated to improve the health of older adults.

These programs have been rigorously tested in controlled settings, proven effective, and translated into practical models that are widely available to the public in a community setting. Each of the program’s evaluations were subjected to the gold standards of the research community.  Therefore, it is important to take note of when an individual attends any of these programs, they can be confident they are participating in a program that works and is highly likely to improve their health and well-being.

Advantages of Evidence-Based Programs

Implementing an evidence-based program is widely considered a “best practice” strategy for community health promotion. Evidence-based programs can add value in many ways.

  • Positively impacting the health of the program participants.
  • Class facilitators can concentrate their efforts on program delivery rather than program development.
  • Older adults want to invest their time in programs that have been proven to work.
  • The demonstrated outcomes of evidence-based programs are appealing to individuals of the community and potential partners.

The following programs are offered by the AAA:

  1. A Matter of Balance – a falls prevention program that provides practical strategies to manage fear of falling or falls.
  2. Caregiver Stress Busting – a program that provides techniques and strategies to support caregivers to improve their coping skills when caring for their loved ones diagnosed with dementia or a chronic disease.
  3. Texercise – an exercise program specifically designed that encourages individuals and communities to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as regular physical activity and good nutrition.

These programs are offered at no cost to the participants and their caregivers.  Classes are provided in person in a community setting or virtually via a web-based software.  The participates must be 60 and older. Note: For Stress Busting for Dementia classes a caregiver can be 18 or older who is caring for someone with dementia. For Stress Busing for a Chronic Disease a caregiver or their loved one must be 60 and older – one of them must be 60 and older.   

Staffing for Health Education Services:

Tiffany Soto, Senior Program Coordinator/Dementia Care Specialist 

Long Term Care Ombudsman Program

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program 

A long-term care ombudsman is a person who is specially trained and certified to protect the health, safety, rights and welfare of individuals who live in nursing and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen listen to residents’ concerns and, with resident consent, investigate, problem-solve and help resolve concerns. They support residents’ rights, privacy and confidentiality. 

Long-term Care Ombudsmen

  • Listen
  • Help resolve concerns that affect residents 
  • Respect resident choices and independence 
  • Promote resident-directed care 
  • Protect resident rights 
  • Support resident and family councils 
  • Help residents when a facility plans to discharge them 
  • Inform government agencies and the public about the interests and needs of residents 
  • Advocate for resident-focused laws and regulations

Staffing for the Heart of Texas Ombudsman Program: 

Ursula Johnson – Managing Local Ombudsman   254-292-1851 

Lynda Mitchell – P. T. Staff Ombudsman, 254-292-1867

Tracy Loggins - P.T. Staff Ombudsman, 254-292-1808


Contract Services

Through contract agreements with providers in the community, AAAHOT works with a locally based system of service providers to provide and maintain personal independence options for eligible clients through a variety of services including supportive services, transportation, caregiver education and training, and senior center activities. 

AAA contracts with service providers throughout the region to provide the following support services in compliance with contract requirements.  


  • Nutrition contractors provide meals in congregate settings and home delivered meals to improve the health and well-being of persons 60 and older. 
  • In the event of an emergency or a disaster the nutrition providers ensure that all congregate and home-delivered clients receive a shelf-stable meal.
  • The nutrition providers refer their clients to AAAHOT and/or other community-based services for coordination of direct services.

Nutrition Education

  • The nutrition contractor monthly provides nutrition related education at all congregate meal sites and to all home-delivered meal recipients. 
  • Nutrition education is provided to all new clients and again at their annual reassessment to promote nutritional well-being and to delay the onset of adverse health conditions resulting from poor nutritional health or sedentary behavior.
  • In the event of an emergency or a disaster the providers ensure that all congregate and home-delivered clients receive a shelf-stable meal.
  • The nutrition providers refer their clients to AAA and/or community-based services for coordination of direct services.

Caregiver Education and Training –

  • AAAHOT subcontracts with Oliver Counseling to provide dementia related counseling to caregivers to assist in making decisions and solving problems relating to their caregiver roles.  This includes counseling for dementia related illnesses for individuals, support groups, and caregiver training for individual caregivers and families.                   


Staffing for Contract Services:

Donnis Cowan - Manager


Nutrition Program

The nutrition program is a core program of AAAHOT that is contracted rather than directly provided by AAAHOT employees.

AAA subcontracts with four service providers throughout the region to provide nutritious meals to older citizens through congregate meal sites and/or home delivered meals. The service providers are closely monitored to ensure compliance with all regulations concerning nutrition and program requirements. These providers operate 36 senior centers and nutrition sites located in the six-county region. The nutrition program is a key contributor to the health and well being of older persons participating in the program. The program also provides social interaction that is critical to good mental and physical health for the recipients.

In addition to providing meals at the congregate sites the subcontractors also prepare and deliver meals to the homes of isolated elderly who are unable to travel to the congregate sites and/or prepare meals for themselves. Home delivered meals, commonly referred to as “Meals on Wheels,” provide critical daily nutrition requirements while allowing the delivery person to make daily contact with the homebound elderly person.

The individual subcontractors are primarily funded by AAAHOT but each contractor is required to obtain additional funding from their local communities and clients for their specific program.

Nutrition Contractors
  • Bosque County Senior Services: Susan Baker, Project Director
  • Central Texas Senior Ministry: Debbie King, Exec. Director (Falls County, Hill County and McLennan County)
  • Freestone County Senior Services: Stephanie Overall, Project Director
  • Limestone County Senior Services: Glenda O'Neal, Project Director

Caregiver Education and Training

AAA subcontracts to provide counseling to caregivers to assist in making decisions and solving problems relating to their caregiver roles. This included counseling for dementia related illnesses for individuals, support groups; and caregiver training for individual caregivers and families.

Aging Program Development

Aging Program Development focuses on the identification and development of new programs/services and the establishment of partnering relationships in the community that advances the efforts of  the AAA to be more successful in meeting the needs of seniors and clients. 

The scope of the program strategically strengthens the efforts, services, and programs, across the entire AAA with no restrictions to specific program areas.

In addition, the manager is involved in special projects that support the efforts of the programs in the Health & Human Services División.

Staffing for Aging Program Development:

Jan Enders – Manager of Aging Program Development and Special Projects.