More Southwest Florida seniors are in need of assistance than ever, based on the number of calls received last year by the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida’s Elder Helpline. The Elder Helpline received 73,843 calls in 2018, an increase of 16.2 percent over the previous year, and the most the agency has ever received in a single year.

The Helpline is an information and referral service provided by the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida (AAASWFL). The Agency’s Helpline assists older adults, caregivers, and people with disabilities in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee, and Sarasota Counties. It is part of the national Eldercare Locator network and is funded through the federal Older Americans Act.

“Our Helpline specialists assist people trying to find services for themselves or their loved ones,” explains Carmen Torres-Ortiz, AAASWFL’s director of client services. “There are many resources available for older people and adults with disabilities. The Elder Helpline is the first step in finding them the help they need, either through a government program, a local nonprofit, or even private pay services.

Locally, the Helpline can be accessed by calling 866-413-5337 (41-ELDER) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, excluding state holidays. Assistance is available in more than 200 languages.

“An increase of more than 10,000 calls in just one year shows us that there’s still a lot of need in our area, especially among seniors,” explains AAASWFL’s CEO Marianne Lorini. “Our Helpline data can show us how those needs are evolving. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be digging into the numbers to see what our most requested services were and if they’ve changed significantly over the last year.”

While the Helpline may be the best-known of AAASWFL’s services, the Agency is also responsible for screening older adults for eligibility for government-funded home and community based services and for monitoring local service providers. AAASWFL also provides direct services to adults 60 and over and adults with disabilities. These programs include SHINE Medicare counseling, health and wellness workshops, and elder abuse prevention education.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018, the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida is a nonprofit organization serving Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee, and Sarasota Counties. The organization is committed to connecting adults ages 60 and over and people with disabilities to resources and assistance for living safely with independence and dignity. AAASWFL is the state’s designated Aging and Disability Resource Center for Southwest Florida.

More information is available at or by calling the toll-free Helpline at 866-413-5337 (866-41-ELDER).


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