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Aging Understanding Elder Care Resources

Every state has an office dedicated to providing resources for seniors. These resources are visible in many communities. For example, you might know of Meals on Wheels or Area Agencies on Aging in your Massachusetts neighborhood. The Elder Care Directory notes that states and even the federal government often have departments that offer legal, nutritional and housing help for seniors

But what exactly do these senior services provide, and when should you contact them? We break it down for you.

State Agency for the Aging

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs website has a list of resources available to help seniors and individuals with disabilities live and thrive wherever they call home. You can reach them at (800) 243-4636 (interpreter services are available in 100+ languages). The phones are answered M-F 9 am-5 pm.

Area Agencies on Aging

An area agency on aging (AAA) is a public or private nonprofit agency designated by a state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons locally. AAAs coordinate and offer services that help older adults remain in their homes, with services such as home-delivered meals, chore assistance, and whatever else it may take to make independent living a viable option, according to Administration for Community Living.

Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels organizations deliver healthy, nutritious meals to seniors at little to no cost. Depending on the services of your local Meals on Wheels, they may offer menus that feature Kosher, Caribbean, Asian, Vietnamese, Italian, African American, vegetarian, and therapeutic dishes in addition to traditional American meals. Based on their individual needs, seniors may also receive frozen weekend meals, cold meals, and nutritional supplements. For more information in the Boston area, visit

Nutrition Counseling

Many local Agencies for the Aging offer seniors and their Caregivers nutrition counseling services and can give advice on how to manage the nutritional aspects of various illnesses.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal program that provides monthly financial assistance to eligible individuals, including the elderly and disabled, who have low income and limited assets and need help paying for food. This federal program is administered at the state level. Contact your state’s Agency on Aging to apply for help through this program.

Elder Care Services

Across Massachusetts, there are non-profit agencies that offer supportive services to help older adults with a variety of issues. Organizations like Bristol Elder Services offer in-home care, help returning home after a hospital stay, nutrition support, protective services in cases of elder abuse, and caregiver support. They are similar to Area Agencies on Aging and some services overlap.

Aging Service Access Points (ASAP)

ASAPs are private non-profit agencies that serve people age 60 and older, according to Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Elder Affairs. They provide direct and protective services, such as information and referral help, case management, intake and assessing needs, developing service plans and investigating abuse and neglect of elders. There are 25 ASAPs across Massachusetts, including Mystic Valley Elder Services.

 Long-Term-Care Ombudsman

The Older Americans Act created a long-term-care ombudsman’s office. This office can investigate and resolve complaints from seniors and their family members regarding the quality of care in long-term-care facilities, like nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Agents from the ombudsman’s office work as advocates for seniors.

Caregiver Respite

Some states have caregiver respite programs that give family caregivers a break from their caregiving responsibilities. Through the respite program, caregivers can arrange to have a substitute caregiver come into their home and provide care to their elderly family member, or the elderly care recipient could be temporarily cared for in an alternative residential care setting, such as a nearby adult care home. HouseWorks also offers Respite Care services.

Adult Protective Services and Elder Abuse Prevention

Each state has a department that’s responsible for investigating allegations of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse or exploitation. If you suspect neglect or abuse, call your state’s division of adult protective services.

Transportation Service

In many communities, seniors can call their local Area Agency on Aging or state Elder Affairs office to schedule transportation to and from medical appointments, shopping centers, and other locations as required to manage their personal affairs. Handicapped-equipped transportation is also available.

 Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)

In Massachusetts, the Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is administered by MassHealth and Medicare to provide a medical, social, recreational, and wellness services to eligible participants. You do not need to be on MassHealth to enroll in PACE. However, if you meet the income and asset guidelines, you may be eligible for MassHealth, and MassHealth may pay your PACE costs.

 Senior Centers

Senior centers are hubs of activity that help older adults connect to important community services that can help them stay independent and healthy. According to the National Council on Aging, senior centers offer meal and nutrition programs; health, fitness and wellness programs; transportation services; public benefits counseling; volunteer opportunities; social activities and more.

Senior Living Communities – Assisted vs. Independent

Senior Living Communities may offer assisted living and independent living. Hebrew Senior Life describes the differences between the two this way: Independent living communities primarily focus on serving the social needs of residents who live independently without much support. Assisted living communities support those who need assistance with activities of daily living, while allowing residents to live as independently as possible. Costs, daily activities, amenities and services, and family involvement vary based on the type of care.

Memory Care Facilities

Memory Care Facilities are a form of residential long-term care that provides intensive, specialized care for people with memory issues. Memory care is designed to provide a safe, structured environment with set routines to lower stress for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to AARP. Some home care companies, such as HouseWorks, offer in-home memory care so that seniors can stay in familiar surroundings with their loved ones.

 Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are also called skilled nursing facilities and provide a wide range of health and personal care services. Their services focus on medical care more than most assisted living facilities and provide services such as nursing care, 24-hour supervision, three meals a day, and assistance with everyday activities. They usually have rehabilitation services, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

 Adult Day Care

Adult Day Care is a support system for older adults and their family caregivers. These centers typically operate during business hours and provide a safe environment for seniors. Typically, there are three types of Adult Day Care centers: those that focus on social interaction; those that provide medical care; and those that specialize in memory/Alzheimer’s care.

 Senior Support Groups

Senior support groups help seniors and their families manage through diagnoses, disease or other life changes that come with aging. Groups may be led by a facilitator with clinical experience in treating a specific illness or by a member of the group. Support groups may be structured with agendas for each meeting, or they may be more social in nature. You can find Senior Support Groups at your local hospitals, senior centers, Area Agency on Aging, and through your city government.

Senior Housing Assistance

A variety of government housing assistance programs are available to help seniors with their housing needs, including home repairs, heating and gas assistance, and more.

Chore and Homemaker Assistance

Seniors can apply through their local agency on aging to receive help with their routine household chores, such as shopping, doing laundry, general house cleaning, preparing meals, and yard work such as mowing grass, raking leaves, pulling weeds, and clearing snow.