New Web Site Assists Senior Citizens, Disabled

August 16, 2002
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Jeanene Harlick

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - The county health department is trying to spread the word about a Web site designed to help local seniors and the disabled access the services they need.

The Network of Care site, which was put online last month, gathers all the county’s resources into a central location. Every long-term care facility, senior center, adult day-care program, advocacy group, support group and respite agency in the county is listed on this site.

But that’s not all. The Web site also tracks senior- and disability-related legislation, has an online library on subjects like medication or long-term care insurance, and contains a database of more than 20,000 assisted devices for the disabled.

“Seniors can empower themselves with this information,” said Carmen Robles, county health worker.

One of the sites unique features is the “My Record” section, said Rama Khalsa, health director. There, seniors can create a private online file of their medical and legal information. Those files can be shared with relatives living far away, so families can access vital information in times of emergency, among other things.

Other features include a daily posting of news articles on aging and disabilities, government links, message boards, and the ability to email legislators before they vote. Seniors and the disabled also can take an online survey to find out which federal assistance programs they are eligible for. People who have a hard time seeing can read the site in large print.

The Web site was the brainchild of Alameda and Sacramento counties. Officials with the two counties created the first Network or Care site in 2000. The response was so positive that the counties offered to customize sites for other counties. More than two-dozen of the state’s 58 counties now have a Network of Care site.

The Santa Cruz county site cost $40,000, with half of that cost funded by a state grant, Robles said.

Seniors are one of the fastest-growing groups of Internet users, Khalsa said. The Web site could prove particularly useful to home-bound seniors, who are often isolated from services, she said.