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Social worker helps local seniors stay independent

By SARA KLEIN News Leader Staff Writer Published: February 9, 2017 12:00 AM
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She begins each new visit to a senior citizen with a smile and the gift of a blanket.

What comes next is a simple conversation about that person and what he or she needs. Is it help with food? Is it help with health care? Or perhaps the senior needs help with paying the heating bills.

Whatever the need, Noel Baker says, there is a community service that can provide it and those services are only a phone call away.

Baker, a social worker who recently joined HARCATUS Tri-County Community Action Organization, is a senior advocate who has begun coordinating a new outreach program specifically geared for mature adults who are living on their own.

Sponsored with a grant from the Carroll County Department of Job and Family Services, the program seeks to connect area adults age 50 and up, as well as developmentally disabled adults, with local services for food, clothing, health care and more.

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"The ultimate goal of our program is to help seniors stay independent in their homes, and be as happy and as healthy as possible there, for as long as they choose," said Baker.

"Even if they don't need services right now, I just want them to know that those services are out there in case they ever need them. They've worked all their lives, and we should be able to honor that and to help them," she added.

There are no income limits for eligibility: all seniors and developmentally disabled adults qualify for assistance through the program, said Baker.

Community services that Baker can help program participants access include: transportation, including free or low-cost rides to local medical appointments or to local stores for errands; food, such as prepared meals that can be delivered to seniors' homes, free meals available at community organizations, and fresh foods available at local food pantries; home heating and cooling assistance, including help with paying bills and household repairs designed to make a house warmer in winter and cooler in the summer; clothing provided by HARCATUS, area churches and non-profit organizations, and free blankets made possible with donations to HARCATUS and from local donors such as the Carroll Electric Cooperative and local individuals; health care help, such as visiting nurses, hospice and palliative care, and mental health services; information about social activities available to seniors at local churches and the Senior Citizens Friendship Center.

Seniors and referring agencies who would like to speak with Baker are invited to call HARCATUS at 330-627-4101 or visit the center at 276 Second St. S.W.

Seniors who would like to volunteer in their local communities can also speak with Baker to get started. Opportunities include serving as a local "grandparent mentor" for children or participating in a program that connects seniors with specific volunteer positions at local non-profit organizations.

Baker can meet with seniors at their homes or at the HARCATUS Community Action Center in Carrollton. She also accepts referrals from area agencies and groups.

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