Our Office for Older Americans strives to find the best ways to share important financial information with adults 62 and older, as well as senior service providers. We developed online and print resources, and even put financial lessons in unexpected places, such as on a paper placemat beneath a meal served at a local senior center.
Our first financial education placemat debuted in May 2016, and to date more than one million placemats have been ordered so far. Based on the large number of placemat orders, we wanted to see for ourselves the success of the initiative. We visited a meal site in southwestern Virginia where the placemats were being used, and learned a lot along the way. While the feedback was very positive, we heard some ideas about how we can make the placemats even better.
While on-site, we noticed that there may be an opportunity to engage people between when they arrive at the meal site and when the meal begins. We began thinking about what people do while waiting for something to start. Some of us doodle, read, or enjoy a word game. That discussion led to the development of a suite of three fraud prevention placemats with simple word games to share information about common scams with tips to prevent or report them. As a result, we created new placemats with a word search, word scramble, and fill-in-the-blank puzzle.
We also developed a toolkit with tips for meal site coordinators, financial institution employees, faith-based leaders, and others who order the placemats. The toolkit helps them find ways to highlight the fraud prevention messages on the placemats. Not only can those serving and receiving meals learn how to spot the signs of financial exploitation and fraud, but now they’ll know who to contact if they suspect there’s a problem. We hope the new companion resource will deepen the educational impact of the placemats.
Last, but certainly not least, we listened to feedback from meal site managers and made the placemats easier to order by creating a landing page specifically for them. The placemats are available in English and Spanish. The mats and toolkit are available to download or order in bulk for free.