People on the Move – New Vietnamese Senior Information Line – Fairfax County
Fairfax County Partners with Boat People SOS on
Thanks to the new Vietnamese Senior Information Line, Vietnamese seniors seeking information on county and community services can dial a number and talk to trained volunteers who speak their native language.
The information line, developed through a partnership of Boat People SOS, Inc. and Fairfax County Department of Family Services’ Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, was launched earlier this week at a press conference in the Boat People SOS, Inc. office in Falls Church, Va.
The Vietnamese Senior Information Line can be reached at 703-538-2190. It operates out of the Boat People SOS office and is available from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The program is staffed by volunteers trained by the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging and supervised by the Boat People SOS’s family services and health and mental health departments. The volunteers speak Vietnamese as well as English.
“Fairfax’s elderly Vietnamese Americans need services, but language and cultural barriers make them vulnerable to isolation,” said Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, executive director of Boat People SOS, Inc. “Oftentimes, seniors are intimidated by automated phone systems and the lack of someone speaking their language,” he said, adding, “the information line will help cut through that isolation.”
Sharon Lynn, assistant director of the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, explained that while the county’s information services can arrange for interpretation services, often seniors are uncomfortable about calling a service that doesn’t answer the phone in their language. “It’s difficult for them to negotiate their need for an interpreter and they often avoid even making the call,” she said.
Ms. Lynn said Vietnamese seniors will be calling the line for information on a wide variety of issues including transportation, affordable housing, English classes and questions about Medicare part D.
The Vietnamese Senior Information Line is modeled on the Korean Senior Information Line which began in September, 2006. The Korean line is a partnership project of the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, the Korean Community Service Center of Greater Washington and the Korean Central Senior Center. The information line, 703-324-3543, is available Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The line receives an average of 30-35 calls each month.
The agency’s efforts to expand culturally appropriate services to older adults aligns with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Fairfax 50+ Action Plan 2007 for creating services that provide for “a more aging friendly community tomorrow.” The plan can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/olderadults.
The Division of Adult and Aging Services’ Fairfax Area Agency on Aging serves older adults, caregivers, and people with disabilities in Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. Boat People SOS is a national nonprofit organization that provides social services and community development services to Vietnamese immigrants.