Alan Gaynor lives in the Back Bay and volunteers with Ethos’ SHINE program. Once a week, Alan spends his day in Ethos’ office counseling Medicare beneficiaries on their healthcare options. 


For the city of Boston, Ethos hosts The SHINE Program (Serving Health Information Needs of Everyone), which is a state health insurance assistance program that provides free health insurance information, counseling and assistance to Massachusetts residents with Medicare and their caregivers. The program is administered by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs in partnership with elder service agencies, social service and community based agencies and Councils on Aging and is partially funded by the federal agency Centers for Medicare & Medicaid.

Alan, an Emeritus professor at Boston University, heard about SHINE from a colleague after he retired from teaching. He began as a SHINE counselor in 2013 as a way to give back to the community in a meaningful way post-retirement. Alan’s experience as a teacher has made him a great volunteer. “The work is meaningful,” Alan he says. “Health care is important, especially for low income people. Helping people, particularly [those who are] low income, get the services they need related to various aspects of their healthcare is satisfying.”

Alan’s responsibilities as a SHINE counselor include helping seniors find the right Part D prescription drug plan that meets their individualized needs. Alan gathers relevant information and collaborates with other agencies on behalf of seniors, and empowers his clients on the telephone and in person. The work of a SHINE counselor is essential to help Medicare beneficiaries and their families navigate the Medicare system in Massachusetts.

To those who may be interested in volunteering with SHINE, Alan offers, “the work is very rewarding… and it gives you meaning in your life. This helps give meaning to my life in retirement.” In Alan’s experience, a volunteer should work hard, have commitment, and most importantly, care about others.

To learn more about becoming a SHINE counselor, contact Meg Barhite, Director of Counseling and Support Services, at or 617-522-6700 x323.