Helping people maintain health and well-being in the comfort of their own home is central to our mission at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES), and our Aging Information Center plays a key role in making that happen.
The center is a free community resource that provides information about programs that serve older adults, caregivers and people with disabilities. Many of these programs are available at no cost, and Center Director Erica Farrell said the discussion is typically about identifying what’s available and best fits the caller’s needs.
“Sometimes people know exactly what they’re looking for, but a lot of people call up and they say, ‘I think I need some help,” said Farrell. “We have really well-trained specialists who will ask questions and provide options. Then the caller can make their own decisions about what works for them.”
The Center is a phone-based service that receives an average of 400 to 550 calls a month. The most common questions are about transportation resources, health insurance for people who are new to Medicare, and public benefits such as MassHealth or SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Questions about SCES programs that provide in-home supports or help for caregivers are also common, said Farrell.
The Center is staffed by Information & Referral (I&R) Specialists, who can provide direct referrals to programs offered by SCES and external referrals to programs offered by other agencies. If a call leads to an SCES referral, the I&R Specialist will ask for basic information, such as name, address, and date of birth. Referrals for some programs may require additional questions.
The length of a phone call depends on the amount of information the caller is looking for; I&R Specialists may speak for up to 15 minutes with a caller if they have multiple questions or are looking for a variety of options.
“We want to provide people with the information that they need, and the resources that they’re looking for,” said Farrell. “We’re very committed to that.”
Farrell added that callers are encouraged to call back if their first referral doesn’t pan out.
“If one of those resources doesn’t meet their needs, we’ll do our best to try to find something else that fits,” said Farrell. “As I&R Specialists, we want to make sure that people are connected with resources they need.”
By Colleen Morrissey, a Resource Specialist, who works at the Aging Information Center of Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services. The Aging Information Center is open during regular business hours, and can be reached by calling 617-628-2601.