Jun 18, 2021

There has been a significant amount of talk this month about Juneteenth—a celebration that honors the end of slavery in the United States. In Massachusetts, Juneteenth became an official state holiday this year. Nationally, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution this week establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day. As I write this article, neither the House of Representatives nor President Biden have approved the resolution. (Note: both the House of Representatives and President Biden approved the legislation later in the week.)

The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, stated that all enslaved people in Confederate states in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” However, the Civil War continued to rage and areas under Confederate control often ignored the proclamation. Two months after the end of the war, U.S. General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and found that slavery was still in full force. On June 19, 1865, Granger announced General Order No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

In the 1860s, it was probably fairly easy to keep this vital information away from the people who needed to hear it. In Texas, slaveholders likely knew about the Emancipation Proclamation, but they chose to ignore it. The slaves in Texas had no way of knowing that they had been freed. 

Today, there seems to be the opposite problem. Instead of not having access to vital information, we are now flooded with too much information, and it can be difficult to know which information is correct and which is “fake news.” Anyone can set up a website and spread their favorite tale.  It’s difficult for many of us to determine what is true and what is fabrication.

For people who need assistance, this can make life significantly more difficult. If you are experiencing difficulties, how do you know which agency is legitimate and which may be a scam? 

Information about services available for older Americans is no exception to this. If you search the internet, you will find hundreds of results on assistance for older people. How do you know which to trust?

On the North Shore, there are three agencies that provide free up-to-date and accurate information on aging. All three agencies are Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)—a service created by the Older Americans Act in 1965—and Aging Services Access Point agencies (ASAP)— state-designated agencies under contract with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.  These organizations are:

If you are uncertain which of these agencies serve your area, call one of them and you will be directed to the AAA/ASAP that serves your community.

Two major services offered by all AAA/ASAP agencies—Information & Referral and Options Counseling—are available to elders, adults with disabilities and caregivers at no charge.

Information and Referral Specialists offer advice on all aspects of elder care and aging and services for adults of all ages with disabilities. In addition, resources to individuals, families, and professionals are available. Trained staff guide callers through the many aging and disability resources available and help obtain the most appropriate and current information.

Options Counselors are state-trained counselors for people age 60 and older, or age 22 and older with a disability. This service is short term– usually about 30 days. Counselors can meet with consumers by phone, email, in person, or a combination. Options Counseling is available to people who reside at home, in nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, and to caregivers wherever they may live, including out of state.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of the era of legalized slavery in this country. But, it is also a cautionary tale about the importance of having access to accurate information.