By Steven Jameson, The Free Press Media (

Sherry Folsom-Meeks, a retired MSU professor who lives in North Mankato has kidney failure and needs regular dialysis. Last summer she ended up in the hospital after a stroke. When she came out of the hospital, she was afraid to go home at first. Unsure whether or not she could care for herself, she went into assisted living. It was there that she met Rita Pyan, Community Living Specialist at the Senior LinkAge Line®. With Rita’s help, and the help of the assisted living facility, it took only two months before she felt comfortable and able to go home.

The Senior LinkAge Line® is a free service provided by the State of Minnesota to help older adults and their families find community services and options. The office in southern Minnesota serves 27 counties, employing five Community Living Specialists like Rita. Even though the Senior LinkAge Line® has been around for 20 years, many people don’t know about it.

“A lot of times when we first call a senior or visit a senior in a nursing home they’ll think we’re a scam” said Pyan. “People can’t believe that we offer this help for free.”

Each week, Pyan gets a list of people that have been sent to area nursing homes that could benefit from her help and guidance. That’s how she learned about Sherry. Sherry was at Pathstone going through rehab. While Pathstone was nice, Sherry’s ultimate goal was to be able to return home. She is just the sort of person the Return to Community program strives to help.

Pyan says they do that by taking the time to listen to you, figure out what help you need and then look for the best options. They help with just about anything – from Medicare questions to health care fraud and abuse scams – the folks at Senior LinkAge Line® can point you in the right direction or even intervene on your behalf.

Folsom-Meeks moved to North Mankato in June of 1992 and worked at MSU as a professor until 2015. “I always wanted to teach at MSU…so when the opportunity came up, I took it. I was at the University of Missouri at the time.”

Sherry doesn’t really have any family close by. She has a couple of siblings that live out of state. So, she was thankful for the Senior LinkAge Line®.
“Rita provided me with a lot of information and handouts that were really helpful. If I would have had to try to track down all of the information on my own, it would have been devastating. Well, not devastating, but certainly taxing” said Folsom-Meeks.

For Sherry, the Senior LinkAge Line® has been there to provide information and has been a peace of mind. But for others, the Community Living Specialists will do a lot more.

“We’ll help them set up things like meals on wheels, grocery delivery and rides”, Pyan said, “We call them regularly to check up on them and make sure things are going OK. To see if they need anything.”

“Anybody can find themselves in a vulnerable situation, no matter how independent they are. We can provide clarity and choices during a time of crisis. It’s very overwhelming for family caregivers to figure out how to find the help their parent is going to need to be able to move back home. We show them what is out there,” added Rhonda Anderson, Return to Community Supervisor at the Senior LinkAge Line®.

The Senior LinkAge Line® is a free statewide service of the Minnesota Board on Aging and Area Agencies on Aging. Specialists provide one-to-one assistance with helping older adults age well and live well. The Senior LinkAge Line® is Minnesota’s federally-designated State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and is the place to call for help with Medicare and health insurance. For more information, call 1-800-333-2433 or go to® to chat live with a Senior LinkAge Line® specialist during business hours.

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