The Stalwart

Elevating Aging



For over 49 years, Mrs. Billie Johnson has been growing the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc. (AOoA) to meet the needs of older northwest Ohioans. Her heart for the AOoA’s work of caring for older adults was formed at a very young age. She and her brother were raised by their grandmothers. As a young child, while her grandmothers and their friends were at the table quilting, Mrs. Johnson fondly recalls sitting underneath the table soaking in the stories they told, learning from the wisdom they had to impart, and loving every moment of it.

It was no accident then, that her career, or as she refers to it, her calling, has been to serve older adults. The AOoA and its leader have found their roots firmly established in these formative years of Mrs. Johnson’s life, grounding the organization’s purpose and passion for serving older adults. It is as if she sees the faces of her beloved grandmothers in the face of every older adult she encounters and she desires to serve them with the dignity and respect they deserve.

As the number of older northwest Ohioans has grown along with the needs they have, this same purpose and passion for serving older adults has also spread the wings of the organization taking it to new heights far beyond its humble beginnings. Through her leadership as President/CEO, the AOoA has evolved from a small divisional office of four staff with a modest budget, into an agency of more than 185 employees, 2000 senior volunteers, over 180 service providers, a host of advisors, professional Board Members and an annual budget of $35 million.

During Mrs. Johnson’s tenure, the AOoA has become one of the premier Area Agencies on Aging in the United States. The AOoA is one of 618 Area Agencies on Aging providing programs and services to older adults. Building upon its reputation as being locally known and nationally recognized, last year, the AOoA received the 1st place national Aging Innovation Award from USAging for its innovative older adult COVID vaccination efforts.

From this same organization, Mrs. Johnson won the most prestigious national aging award, The President’s Award. In addition to this national recognition, she has also been recognized at the State level. Ohio’s State Senators and Representatives gathered together on their respective floors in the Statehouse to formally recognize Mrs. Johnson for her leadership to improve the lives of Ohio’s older adults in general and older northwest Ohioans in particular.

The AOoA serves more than 40,000 older adults a year living in 10 counties. When she saw that there was a lack of affordable senior housing in the rural part of this service area in the 1980s, Mrs. Johnson developed three subsidiary corporations to provide safe, affordable, accessible, and beautiful housing for older adults in North Baltimore, Defiance, and Napoleon. While some of these accomplishments are measurable in numbers, the priceless accomplishment Mrs. Johnson is most proud of is helping those she serves be where they want to be … home.

At the local level, the Lucas County Commissioners added Mrs. Johnson to Lucas County’s Wall of Friends earlier this year. This recognition is, in part, for her leadership organizing the agency’s Foundation and developing a senior campus of 46 acres that provides a full continuum of care for older adults. She also provided leadership for the Senior Services Levy Committee in Lucas County and successfully passed six levies for Senior Citizens in 1991, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014, and 2019.

Mrs. Johnson has been in the spotlight at the state level, nationally, and internationally on aging and women’s issues. She was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. She participated as a workshop leader at the World Conference on Women/Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. She was also a presenter at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Additionally, she is a leader in her community and has served on the Boards of the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Zoological Society, and on many other local civic boards and foundations.

Other honors and awards she has received include:
1.Touchstone Lifetime Achievement Award by The Press Club of Toledo
2.Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Ohio Association of Gerontological Educators in Ohio
3.The Athena Award by The Toledo Chamber of Commerce
4.Distinguished Service to Justice Award by the Legal Aid Society of Toledo
5.YWCA’s Milestones Award-A Tribute To The Women Hall of Fame
6.Recognized by the Ohio Senate for Outstanding Civic service to the Toledo Zoo
7.Woman of Achievement Award by Zonta International—Toledo I Club
8.Impact Newsmaker Award by the Northwest Ohio Black Media Association
9.Outstanding Woman Award by the national Association of Negro Business & Professional Women’s Club—Toledo Club
10. Outstanding Service Award by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Zeta Alpha Omega Chapter

Earlier this year, The Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging (o4a) unveiled its new award to recognize an individual’s longevity and career accomplishments in the field of aging in Ohio. o4a named this Award the Billie Johnson Award. o4a presented its Billie Johnson Award to The Award’s namesake, the AOoA’s President/CEO. She is the first to receive the Billie Johnson Award, but she will not be the last. After she retires in June, this award bearing her name, will continue to be bestowed annually to recognize an individual’s longevity and career accomplishments in the field of aging.

For those who know her well, it will come as no surprise that her retirement will not mark the end of her work on behalf of older northwest Ohioans. Caring for older adults was infused into her as a child and is still alive and well in her today as a fundamental part of her very being. Her living legacy will continue to grow as she works with the next generation of leadership to ensure that a Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) Center is established on the campus she has been instrumental in developing for decades. This PACE Center will help individuals with complex care needs who currently have to go one place to frequently visit their primary care physician, another part of town to get physical therapy, occupational therapy, meals, adult day care, and to be transportation to all these places. The PACE Center will make it possible for these older adults to have all these care needs taken care of under one roof with one organization coordinating all these services.

Mrs. Johnson has been working on this PACE Center for three years. She realizes that turning the dream of this PACE Center into a reality, like all the accomplishments throughout her career, doesn’t happen overnight, but instead happens through continuous steady progress year after year.

While some find great comfort in being surrounded by all these accomplishments and awards, Mrs. Johnson feels most comfortable today in exactly the same place she felt most comfortable as a young girl, surrounded by her beloved older adults. Early in life, she found this comfort as she was surrounded by her grandmothers and their quilt. She went into the field of aging enjoying being surrounded by older adults, and as she retires, at her farewell celebration, she wants nothing more than to be surrounded by hundreds of her beloved older adults.

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