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Life On The Line: The Area Agency On Aging Gets Record Number Of Calls From Arizona Seniors

By Lauren Gilger, Kathy Ritchie
Published: Friday, April 24, 2020 - 9:22am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 1:20pm

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Area Agency on Aging help line
Area Agency on Aging
Cynthia Salk (right) works the Area Agancy on Aging's Senior HELP LINE.

Since mid-March, the Phoenix-based Area Agency on Aging has received a record number of calls to its Senior Help Line.

Who’s answering these calls? And what’s happening on the other end of the line?

"Hi. Good morning. This is Cynthia. I'm with the Area Agency on Aging, the Senior Help Line. You left a message about a lady you had some concerns about."

Cynthia Salk is the information and referral specialist at Area Agency on Aging.

"In a typical year, we get maybe about 40,000 calls per year per year at the Senior Help Line, and in the past month, we received 16,000 calls," said Salk in April.

And the people Salk is talking to are scared, like one 65-year-old victim of domestic violence Salk heard from recently.

"It was the first time in her life she'd ever had to go to a domestic violence shelter. And she called kind of in the middle of the night and talk to one of us that was answering the phone in the nighttime, because she was just terrified."

Or the daughter Salk talked to who can’t visit her mother in memory care because of the coronavirus.

"And she was so upset because the mother won't understand why the daughter isn't there anymore. She just won't be able to comprehend that. And the daughter was very tearful about that."

And just the other day, she talked to a 66-year-old man who is on oxygen.

"And he’s afraid to go out. And he has no one in his life but his kitty cat. And I offered to bring home-delivered meals for 60 days, and this very masculine-sounding man just burst into tears," she said. "It tore me up."

In this case, Salk was able to offer help. But sometimes, all she can do is listen. 

It's hard. I feel helpless. And that I just have to identify with their situation and tell them that I understand and, and that we're going to get through this.

Because, like Salk says, we’re in this together. 

If you or someone you know needs assistance, call the 24-hour Senior Help Line at 602-264-HELP.

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