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Help line expands aid for seniors

  • Article by: Warren Wolfe
  • Star Tribune
  • September 1, 2011 - 5:24 PM

The state's premier information and referral service for older people and their families, the Minnesota Senior LinkAge Line, is broadening its reach, officials announced Thursday at the State Fair.

The phone service, which already answers more than 119,000 calls a year for help with medical and social services, began using Internet instant messaging Thursday, with 45 experts from 10 state agencies to answer a wider range of questions, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon said at the State Fair.

"This makes us much more of a one-stop shop for older Minnesotans," said Jean Wood, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging, a state agency that administers the LinkAge Line.

On Thursday, Prettner Solon and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson launched the new service, projected to generate about 20,000 additional calls annually.

In a demonstration, a LinkAge Line counselor exchanged messages with Human Services specialist Sarah Mashwaran to find out immediately how a caller with hearing loss can get free access to a specialized telephone.

Other departments on tap are Health, Education, Corrections, Labor and Industry, Natural Resources, Commerce, Veterans Affairs, Public Safety and Employment and Economic Development. Prettner Solon said the service will be expanded later to include volunteer and job opportunities for seniors.

In addition, consumers can initiate Internet "chats" with LinkAge Line counselors during business hours by going to www.minnesotahelp.info and clicking on "MinnesotaHelp Now" at the top of the page. About five people a day use that little-publicized chat service, in place for two years.

The statewide service is operated by the six regional area agencies on aging, with 45 paid counselors and about 300 trained volunteers, and is funded with $2.9 million in state and federal money.

To contact the LinkAge Line, dial 1-800-333-2433 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

wolfe@startribune.com. • 612-673-7253

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