Senior fair held at QVCC

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Nov. 21, 2011
(L-r) Brandy Ritchotte from TEEG, Loretta Anderson from Senior Resources Agency on Aging, and state Sen. Don Williams (D-29) spoke with seniors. Photos by D. Coffey.
(L-r) Brandy Ritchotte from TEEG, Loretta Anderson from Senior Resources Agency on Aging, and state Sen. Don Williams (D-29) spoke with seniors. Photos by D. Coffey.

On Nov. 19, state Sen. Don Williams (D-29) and state Sen. Andrew Maynard (D-18) hosted an annual senior fair at Quinebaug Valley Community College. Representatives from more than 20 state, non-profit and other organizations were on hand to answer questions and discuss ways in which they could assist seniors.

Taylor Somerville, an aide to Maynard, said the fair was a chance for seniors to have face-to-face contact with organizations that cater to their needs. It was also an opportunity to bring many agencies together at the same time. “If they can't answer their questions, they can provide contact information for seniors,” Somerville said.

Organizations from AARP to home health care organizations and state consumer protection agencies were on hand from 9 a.m. until noon in the community room of QVCC. Representatives were available to speak with seniors on insurance, veterans’ affairs, legal services, consumer protection, Medicare and fuel and food assistance issues.

The Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group's Brandy Ritchotte said that in her job as case manager, she is responsible for knowing about programs available to seniors or knowing who to refer them to. From food stamps to fuel assistance, TEEG counselors advise clients, based on income and program guidelines.

Senior Resources benefits enrollment coordinator Loretta Anderson wanted seniors to know that qualification amounts for certain benefits have risen this year. “Seniors might now qualify for certain benefits that they haven't qualified for in the past,” she said. “At Senior Resources, we help seniors navigate a variety of systems.”

Williams praised Anderson for the work she has done on behalf of Connecticut residents. “She gives important information to our seniors,” he said.

Connecticut Legal Services representatives were available to discuss their services for seniors. Services include assistance with living wills, nursing issues, and economic issues. The services are free to seniors below a certain income limit. For those seniors who do not qualify, CLS will refer to other organizations.

The Connecticut Department of Insurance program manager Gerard O'Sullivan was on hand to talk with people about any insurance-related questions. “Insurance has gotten very complicated, and we can help seniors understand their policies on homes, cars and health,” he said. “We try to make it as easy as possible. Seniors can call or mail requests to us.”

Generations Family Health Centers provided literature on the different kinds of services available through their offices. The federally-qualified health center has four locations in the state and provides services on a sliding fee scale.

Director of Health Care Access and Promotion Barry Bonds said he spoke with many seniors at the fair about dental coverage. Generations has a mobile dental van that makes dental care more accessible to the state's rural areas, where many seniors lack dental coverage.

AARP grandparents' advocate Ann Slater had information on services available for Connecticut residents raising their grandchildren. Slater's job is to help new grandparents learn about the variety of services available to them. “Most seniors are on fixed incomes,” she said. “Some grandparents have to find new housing to accommodate children. They might need cribs or car seats or toys.” Slater knows from experience. “It took me 10 years to find out all the things that were available to me as a grandparent raising grandchildren,” she said.

Putnam resident Jeanne Burlingham said she tries to come to the fair every year. “I read constantly,” she said, “so a lot of the information I know.” Still, she wants to keep abreast of developments in senior-related services.

Williams was pleased to see how many seniors were at the fair. “It shows that seniors in northeastern Connecticut are interested in the services offered in the state,” he said.

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