Information and Referral/Assistance

Information and Referral (I&R) programs offered by Area Agencies on Aging and Title VI Native American Aging Programs help older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers connect to needed services in their communities. I&R programs help people identify, understand and effectively connect to a broad range of programs that will address their needs for services and supports to help them age well at home and in the community. These programs are part of their local, state and federal human service delivery systems. USAging administers the ACL-funded Eldercare Locator, a national I&R call center with the primary goal of connecting callers to local services and resources. In addition, USAging administers the ACL-funded Disability Information and Access Line.
In comparison to traditional I&R, Information and Referral/Assistance (or I&R/A) denotes a more in-depth process and more enhanced service than traditional I&R, including individualized help with accessing services, extensive follow-up, emphasis on empowerment and self-direction, and individual advocacy if necessary and requested.
Professional I&R specialists use communication skills such as active listening and probing to understand the full scope of what callers need, then they provide a range of resources to assist people in making the most informed decisions to address their needs. I&R specialists empower individuals to make their own choices when they are searching for supports and services such as through education, affirmation, collaborative planning and problem solving; and may advocate on behalf of those who need/request special support. Examples of I&R/A services include information giving; referral; advocacy on behalf of an individual; crisis intervention; conducting follow-up; maintaining an accurate database of community resources; conducting data collection, analysis and reporting to measure the service needs of a community; developing cooperative community programming; community outreach; and emergency preparedness and disaster response (from AIRS Standards for Professional I&R).
The Aging and Disability I&R/A Networks are comprised of several agency types that provide and coordinate services for older adults, individuals with disabilities and caregivers, including, but not limited to, state agencies on aging and disability (state agencies), Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, 2-1-1 Call Centers, Centers for Independent Living and other nonprofit human service organizations. I&R/A services might also be coordinated through state No Wrong Door systems.
For more about I&R standards, including the certification designed for aging and disability resource specialists, visit the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) website. Their helpful resources include I&R standards information and details on practitioner certification.

USAging Fact: Learn about your peers’ work—and how it can fit into your agency’s goals! The AIA Awards recognizes successful and innovative programs that USAging members have developed to serve older adults. Get inspiration from our 2023 winners!