Dr. Cathy Rowe made her inaugural testimony before the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee meeting on May 5. The topic of discussion focused on the unique challenges that older adults who are homebound have been facing under COVID-19.
NJAAW’s Executive Director's testimony noted that a record number of residents sought assistance at the same time agencies and programs struggled with severe disruption to their usual way of delivering services.
"Many older New Jerseyans were not only seeking assistance but they were doing so for the first time,” she said. "Many older residents are simply not aware of services that are available or how to apply for them. Trying to navigate the multiple agencies, departments and programs is complicated, especially for people unaware of what is offered, what qualifies them for service and how to apply. In addition, many of our residents are not tech-savvy, nor do they go online to find what they need," she added. "Finally, many towns simply do not have the resources to do it on their own."
Dr. Rowe suggested that this surge in need under COVID emphasizes the need for simple, comprehensive ways to access services, such as a single point of entry for services or a clearinghouse approach that could screen callers and educate them about available services. Not only will this make it easier for residents, she noted, but it could help service agencies and organizations by reducing time staff spent responding to inquiries from people who are not eligible.
Dr. Rowe also suggested that such a system could promote the services available to older adults as well as their adult children and others who care for them with comprehensive materials describing services.