Money Management helps navigate challenges of vision loss

Lewis “Doc” West reviews documents with Money Management volunteer Judith Rosen, in one of their monthly meetings at his Cambridge home. The Money Management program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services helps roughly 80 older adults maintain independence by helping with mail reading, bill paying, and financial errands. SCES PHOTO

Lewis “Doc” West has been happy to call Cambridge home since the late ‘90s. But when he started losing his vision to glaucoma, he needed to make some changes.

As a musician, the biggest was relearning how to play the guitar. More recently it was finding an apartment within walking distance of vital services. West, who is legally blind, began the process of looking for affordable housing a few years ago, and he was glad to have some assistance from a Money Management volunteer through Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES).

“Judith [Rosen] was a great help when it came to moving and for filling out the applications for housing,” said West. “She really goes above and beyond.”

Rosen has worked with West as a Money Management volunteer for just over two years. They typically meet once per month to go through his mail, ensure the bills are paid, and confirm that his accounts are in order.

Rosen described her role as providing support where needed, saying they sometimes met more frequently to complete paperwork when West was looking for housing. She also helped with typing materials that may become future lyrics for his songwriting.

“Lewis had a friend who sent him some poems that were handwritten,” said Rosen. “Though he has a reader for documents, handwritten notes can be hard for it to read, so I typed them up for him.”

Music is mostly a hobby for West these days. He loves playing guitar and bass, and still writes songs and does the occasional performance. He previously played in groups and is no stranger to the recording studio.

West described his vision loss as a gradual process that took years. He eventually connected with SCES to receive in-home services, such as taxi rides and homemaker services, and learned about the Money Management program that way.

In July, West finally got the apartment he wanted, which is across the street from a drug store, supermarket and other essentials. Overall, he said it’s a much better fit for his current lifestyle.

“I try to be as independent as possible,” said West. “Having honest people to help when I need it has been a blessing.”

The SCES Money Management program helps roughly 80 eligible older adults maintain their independence by providing assistance with tasks such as bill paying, budgeting, and bank errands. In some cases, it also provides a Rep Payee program to help older adults manage their social security benefits.

Rosen has been a Money Management volunteer since 2016 and joined the SCES Board of Directors in 2020. Her favorite part of Money Management is helping clients meet their financial and life goals.

“You really do get to know each other, and it’s nice to make a difference in someone’s life, because it makes a difference in your life, too,” said Rosen. “I’m happy to see Lewis in his new home, and I think he’ll thrive there.”

Support Money Management 

The Money Management program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services helps eligible older adults maintain independence by providing assistance for financial tasks and/or managing Social Security benefits.

SCES is dedicated to helping older adults maintain independence and dignity, but we rely on community support to ensure that Money Management meets the growing demand for this service.

SCES is thrilled to announce that East Cambridge Savings Bank is once again supporting our annual fundraising drive for Money Management, by matching the first $5,000 of donations to the program this September.  

By making a tax-deductible gift to Money Management, you can provide support where it is needed most, helping neighbors like Lewis maintain independence, in their own homes.

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older adults in Somerville and Cambridge. For free advice and guidance on questions of aging, caregiving or disability, contact our Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601, email, or visit our website