By Meredith Anderson, Community Services Manager, and Anna Guest, Director of Community Education, Southern Maine Agency on Aging
The five Area Agencies on Aging in Maine provide critical services to help adults 60 and over, adults with disabilities, and the people who care for them to stay healthy and independent. Services include but are not limited to meal deliveries for home-bound adults, health and wellness education, benefits assistance, health insurance counseling, and caregiver support. The agencies are programs of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
In recent years, Agencies on Aging have been working hard to meet the diverse and changing needs of Maine’s aging population by focusing not only on a client’s age, disability, gender, geographical location, and socioeconomic status, but also on ethnicity, Indigenous group membership, immigration status, nationality, religion, and sexual orientation as well. All of these are important factors when seeking solutions, assessing eligibility, and connecting with available services. The end goal for our organizations is to meet clients where they are – by understanding, recognizing, and respecting the values, traditions, culture, world views, and pasts of all our clients.
Here are some practical ways the Southern Maine Agency on Aging is connecting with clients:
Sharing information about services in different languages. We have translated an overview of our services and programs into Arabic, French, Kinyarwanda, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese. We also have translated flyers about the assistance we provide with applications for Medicare (MaineCare), food stamps, and heating assistance, as well as information about Meals on Wheels, the meal delivery program for home-bound older adults and adults with disabilities. If a client needs translation over the phone or for an in-person appointment, we provide this free of charge.
Offering familiar foods. Halal meals are part of our food options for Meals on Wheels clients and for our As You Like It program, which offers a dining-out experience at local restaurants, with a significant discount for adults 60 and over. These restaurants include Chinese, Latin American, and most recently a new Mediterranean restaurant.
Partnerships with trusted organizations. Building trust between organizations and communities takes time. However, our partnerships with Amjambo Africa, Catholic Charities Maine, and other organizations that have established a strong level of trust are helping us connect with community members who have not previously heard of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.
Each of the above examples is a marker of the ongoing commitment our agencies have made to learn how to make our services inclusive and culturally sensitive, so clients feel safe and respected when seeking support.
To find the Agency on Aging serving your area, visit maine4a.org