The biggest obstacle in Maine seniors receiving help is their reluctance to ask. This may be the winter that pushes people to make the call and in most cases, receive much-needed assistance.

Several years ago, I overcame this reluctance when I realized that my tax dollars, during 50 years of employment, helped establish these programs and that it was my turn for help. This assistance makes it possible for me to continue to work.

For two years, Maine has had a statewide resource called 211. By dialing this number, it’s possible to get connected to more than 8,000 resources from childcare to fuel assistance. Since this program started, nearly 60,000 people have made the call.

The number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This statewide effort is possible because of the partnership among the United Ways of Maine, Ingraham and the state of Maine.

Currently, 2-1-1 Maine is the call center handling requests for information regarding statewide emergency fuel assistance. It is also assessing eligibility for free tax preparation appointments with United Way of Greater Portland’s CA$H Program (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) and directing people to other financial planning and tax preparation assistance opportunities around the state.

Recently, I attended a gathering of senior citizens and representatives from Southern Maine Agency on Aging. That organization tackles nearly every facet of senior citizen life and issues, and one of the several information sheets I came away with provides a summary of their services. It might be a good idea to cut this article out and keep in handy (like on the refrigerator) just in case you need a good reference.

Services offered in Cumberland and York counties:

• Meals on Wheels and Senior Luncheons – call (800) 400-6325

• Healthy Aging and Living Well – classes and self-help support including falls prevention and living with chronic illness. Contact Anne Murray at 396-6529

• Maine Senior Games – competitive events for fun and fitness affiliated with National Senior Games. Open to athletes age 50+ from all over Maine and the U.S.

• Senior News – to sign up for this free bi-monthly newspaper, contact Bonnie at 396-6526 or [email protected]

• Support services and coordination – housekeeping, personal care, meal service, and emergency response for elderly residents of subsidized housing. Call 854-6808

• Truslow Adult Day Center – therapeutic day program in Saco, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact Debra Thomas at 283-0166.

• Volunteer opportunities to help seniors with bill-paying, grocery shopping and home repairs. Volunteers visit isolated older adults. Through RSVP, match volunteers age 55+ with jobs at other non-profits. Contact Ken Murray at 396-6520

For the following services, call 396-6500 or (800) 427-7411 and ask for an elder advocate:

• Information and referral – free consultation and assistance with such things as locating housing, applying for benefits, health insurance counseling and linkages with social and healthcare services. Staffed by licensed social workers who specialize in resources for older adults.

• Health insurance C=counseling – Medicare specialists offer unbiased help with insurance options at no cost.

• Caregiver support and assistance – support groups, classes and one-on-one guidance for family caregivers of older people, those with dementia and elder kinship parents.

• Partners in Caring – Support for families dealing with dementia.

• Senior Solutions Care Management – help with long-term care planning and decisions. Senior Solutions offers many options for supporting families through the aging process. Cost is $85 per hour.

To learn what programs you may be eligible for, such as the Low Cost Drug Program through the state, food stamps, fuel assistance, MaineCare or Supplemental Security Income, call SMAA at (800) 427-7411 and ask for a Benefit Checklist for Maine 2007. This handy information sheet covers all these programs and more.

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