City of Cambridge Reaches More than 7,000 Residents Via Senior Phone Outreach Initiative

Over the past three weeks, 20 employees with the City of Cambridge have contacted more than 7,000 senior residents throughout the community. This effort, which is being led by the City Manager’s Office, is intended to connect directly with seniors to determine if they have any questions, concerns or needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made a significant investment to ensure we are connecting with and supporting our most vulnerable populations,” said Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale in a joint statement. “It can be a particularly challenging and lonely time for seniors during this time of social distancing. This senior outreach initiative has been exemplary. Whether it is simply listening to stories from our seniors or educating them on the latest information related to COVID-19, this program has greatly benefited our seniors and the employees making these calls.”

The callers from the City of Cambridge include employees from eleven departments and the Cambridge Police Department’s Cadets program. Brian Corr, Executive Director of the Peace Commission and Executive Secretary for the Police Review and Advisory Board, manages the day to day call operations and Susan Pacheco, Executive Director for the Council on Aging (COA), facilitates follow-up requests for senior services and program information.

In addition to the 7,000 phone calls, the City has been supporting seniors in the community in a variety of ways throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. When City offices and programs closed on March 17, a central priority was making sure that the approximately 800 seniors who relied on the COA’s food pantry would still have access to a regular food source. Within 5 days of closures, the City and Food for Free launched the Cambridge Community Food Line on Monday, March 22. Every senior enrolled in the COA’s food pantry program was contacted to enroll in the Food Line, which delivers weekly shelf-stable food items directly to residents. The Senior Center also collaborated with the Cambridge Housing Authority and other local property managers to ensure that seniors at those properties were added to the Food Line distribution list.

The COA’s main phone line (
617-349-6220) has remained a consistent resource for seniors and caregivers, and is monitored by five staff members who field calls and provide information about available resources and support. The COA also sends a phone broadcast message with important updates and advisories twice a week to the 1,300 contacts who have signed up to receive phone messages from the Council on Aging. Additionally, almost 90% of the regularly offered classes are offered virtually, including yoga, watercolor painting, Spanish, Zumba, and a monthly book discussion. Many programs offered by COA have continued with minimal interruption, including SHINE Counseling, which provides benefits counseling about retirement, insurance, prescription medication and more by phone or virtually. All senior households in Cambridge also received a multi-language resource mailer.

Below are some of the responses callers have received from residents:

  • “I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation for your call.”
  • “Some years ago, I wrote a book on effective customer relations skills. These interpersonal and communication skills apply to all professionals who work with the public. I could tell, throughout our conversation, that you possess the very best of these skills and that you will be a real asset to the Cambridge Police Department.”

Below are examples of feedback from employees who are conducting the outreach:

  • “I helped someone with their Spanish. We spent 15 minutes practicing with the resident.”
  • “I spoke to a woman who was born and raised in Cambridge. She was thankful to share stories about swimming in the Charles River and talking about her 33 grandchildren.”

The City is committed to identifying new resources to help residents and businesses navigate this difficult time. For more information and to sign up to receive updates on COVID-19, please visit the City’s dedicated information page at www.cambridgema.gov/covid19 

Page was posted on 5/14/2020 5:26 PM
Page was last modified on 5/14/2020 5:28 PM
Contact Us

How can we help?

Please provide as much detail below as possible so City staff can respond to your inquiry:

As a governmental entity, the Massachusetts Public Records Law applies to records made or received by the City. Any information received through use of this site is subject to the same provisions as information provided on paper.

Read our complete privacy statement


Service Requests

Enter a service request via Commonwealth Connect for things like missed trash pickups, potholes, etc., click here