At age 70, Lois Steinberg was ready to leave her job as VP of a market research firm, where she worked with big-name clients like AT&T and Citibank. After 20 years in the corporate world, was she going to retire? Heck no. The Larchmont resident and mother of two baby boomers enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College and earned another master’s degree in health advocacy (on top of the PhD she earned from Fordham—in 1978).
School “was a lot of fun,” she says. Today 82, Steinberg is the Westchester program director—and oldest staff member—of the Medicare Rights Center, an organization that seeks to educate and empower seniors about their own healthcare. “People always ask me how I have so much energy,” she says. “I don’t have time to stop!”
Steinberg became interested in health advocacy after seeing the difficulties her own parents were having with their healthcare. One award-winning program Steinberg implemented is Medicare Minutes, in which volunteers—most of whom are over the age of 50—make short announcements about changes in Medicare in senior centers. “When we got our grant, I decided to do some market research,” she says. “I called some senior centers and told them we wanted to do programs about Medicare, and they told me to forget it, they’d fall asleep during it. That’s when I came up with the idea of doing shorter announcements.” Steinberg runs a host of health-related programs, including one-on-one counseling in local libraries and interactive workshops that teach participants how to speak up to their doctors.
In what little spare time she has, Steinberg works with At Home on the Sound, an “aging in place” program that helps seniors stay in their own houses instead of being forced to move into retirement homes or assisted living facilities. “That’s my volunteer work,” she says.
Her programs, which serve between 1,500 and 1,600 Westchester residents each month, has earned the Medicare Rights Center a slew of awards, including recognition from the MetLife Foundation and the United Way of Westchester and Putnam Counties. Steinberg herself was named a “Purpose Prize Fellow” by Civic Ventures and was inducted into the county’s Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. “Lois is an inspiration to everyone at the Medicare Rights Center and to anyone who meets her in Westchester,” says Robert M. Hayes, former president of the Medicare Rights Center. “She is a role model, the gold standard for civic engagement in the twenty-first century.”
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer for the Medicare Rights Center, or in having volunteers run a program in your organization, call (914) 833-3827.