SHINE Lights the Way Through Medicare and More

A photo looking up to a group of people in gray t-shirts smiling at the camera in front of a building.

Do you find Medicare confusing? You’re not alone. For many seniors, Medicare and health insurance information can be a maze of online documents and government websites. Sometimes, you just need a friend to help. 

That’s the purpose of SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders). It’s a free program for Floridians over 65, run by volunteers and funded by Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs. Volunteers, often seniors themselves, help users through Zoom or the helpline, or at multiple locations throughout the county, including the Sunshine Senior Center at 330 5th Street N. during limited hours. 

Volunteer Charles Frankle has been with SHINE for 15 years. He used to travel to different Florida offices, but since COVID he helps seniors virtually and trains other volunteers. For two to 10 hours a week, Frankle settles in a chair in his St. Pete home, turns on his computer, and prepares to help people who are often frustrated or unsure of how to use their health benefits. 

“What I do varies from helping people find the right health insurance plan to financial assistance, or how to find their medications for less,” Frankle said. “I think it’s just an understanding of what’s available, because there’s not a lot out there explaining that.” 

Frankle formerly worked in banking – risk management, to be precise. Maybe that’s why he’s stuck around so long: He knows how to decode a complicated system, and he knows people. “Sometimes, I can’t even help people with what they need, but we’re among the few people they can actually get on the phone and talk to them about it,” Frankle said. What’s the biggest issue people call about? “Medicare,” Frankle said. 

Most people aged 65 and older can use free Medicare. If they are not eligible, it’s possible to sign up and pay a monthly premium. Everything else, however, can be a bit confusing, according to Frankle. But it’s not just direct Medicare help that SHINE’s volunteers provide. Volunteers all over the state take calls on anything health related or financially involved, from long-term care to Social Security, that may be difficult to navigate alone. SHINE users can join an online Zoom meeting with others or call for direct help. 

“Often people go without,” Frankle said. “That doesn’t need to happen, not with everything that is available.” 

Want to make a difference? SHINE is always accepting volunteers. They’ll train you, and then you’ll set to work untangling things for grateful seniors.  

To volunteer or access resources visit or call 1-800-96-ELDER.

SHINE Helps Seniors Navigate

Original Medicare

Medicare Advantage plans

Medicare prescription drug plans

Medicare supplement insurance 

Financial assistance

Extra financial help for prescriptions

Medicare savings programs

Medicare fraud and abuse

Social Security 

Long-term care 

Medicare complaints