Much attention is being given to the notion of helping seniors to stay in the community, safely and independently for as long as possible. As the percentage of our population over the age of 65 continues to grow, this objective for us as a society will continue to increase in importance due to the sheer numbers and the strain that will be imposed on the current service delivery system. Recently I met with Jamie Acoff, Outreach Coordinator at the Cheektowaga Senior Center and she explained the array of programs available for both senior owners and renters as well as the vital role Outreach Coordinators and Case Managers can play in helping seniors to remain as independent as possible.

She pointed out that many seniors qualify for weatherization assistance and low cost?phone service through Erie County HEAP office although many of them do not know it or are too proud to ask for help. Appliance and lighting replacements are also available through EmPowerNY which is funded by New York State and the Public Service Commission.

Individual? towns also offer 0-1.5% interest loans for home owners for roof, window and other big ticket?replacements. This is paid for by Federal money channeled through local government.? The senior citizen homeowner is able to make and enjoy these repairs and there is no obligation to pay the money back until the individual actually sells the property. Acoff points out that there are long waiting lists for this program and it makes sense for people to be proactive and apply for assistance at least a couple of years before the improvements are actually necessary.

Senior Outreach Coordinators also known as Case Managers are available for any senior who needs help with understanding insurance reimbursement, wrestling with pharmaceutical companies or finding out if you are eligible for low to no cost home repairs. There are no cost or financial eligibility criteria in order to obtain help. The correct person for you can be found by calling your individual town government office or you can go directly to Erie County Senior Services at 716-858-8526.