Money management helps meet the challenges of vision loss


Lewis ‘Doc’ West reviews documents with money management volunteer Judith Rosen during one of their monthly meetings at his Cambridge home. Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services’ money management program helps approximately 80 seniors maintain their independence by helping them read mail, pay bills and do financial errands.

Lewis “Doc” West is happy to have called Cambridge home since the late 90s. But when he started losing his sight to glaucoma, he had to make some changes.

As a musician, the most important thing was to relearn how to play the guitar. More recently, it was about finding an apartment within walking distance of vital services. West, who is legally blind, began the process of finding affordable housing a few years ago, and was happy to have the help of a Money Management volunteer through Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services. (SCES).

“Judith [Rosen] was a big help with moving and filling out housing applications,” West said. “She really goes above and beyond.”

Rosen worked with West as a financial management volunteer for just over two years. They usually meet once a month to go through his mail, make sure bills are paid, and confirm his accounts are in order.

Rosen described her role as providing support when needed, saying they sometimes meet more frequently to complete paperwork when West is looking for accommodation. She also helped type material that could become the future lyrics of her writing.

“Lewis had a friend who sent him handwritten poems,” Rosen said. “Although he has a reader for documents, handwritten notes can be difficult to read, so I typed them out for him.”

Music is mostly a hobby for West these days. He loves playing guitar and bass, and still writes songs and performs occasionally. He previously played in bands and is no stranger to the recording studio.

West described his vision loss as a gradual process that took years. He eventually contacted SCES to receive home services, such as taxi rides and housekeeping services, and thus discovered the money management program.

In July, West finally got the apartment he wanted, which is across from a pharmacy, supermarket and other essentials. Overall, he said it was much better suited to his current lifestyle.

“I try to be as independent as possible,” West said. “Having honest people to help me when I needed them has been a blessing.”

The SCES Money Management program helps approximately 80 eligible seniors maintain their independence by providing assistance with tasks such as paying bills, budgeting, and banking. In some cases, it also offers a Rep Payee program to help seniors manage their Social Security benefits.

Rosen has been a money management volunteer since 2016 and joined the SCES Board of Directors in 2020. Her favorite part of money management is helping clients achieve their financial and personal goals.

“You really get to know yourself, and it’s good to make a difference in someone’s life, because it makes a difference in your life too,” Rosen said. “I’m happy to see Lewis in his new home, and I think he’s going to thrive there.”

The Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services Financial Management Program helps eligible seniors maintain their independence by providing assistance with financial tasks and/or managing Social Security benefits.

SCES is dedicated to helping seniors maintain their independence and dignity, but we rely on community support to ensure Money Management meets the growing demand for this service.

SCES is delighted to announce that East Cambridge Savings Bank is once again supporting our annual fundraising campaign for Money Management, matching the first $5,000 in donations to the program in September.

By making a tax-deductible donation to Money Management, you can provide support where it’s needed most, helping neighbors like Lewis maintain their independence, in their own homes.

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For free advice and guidance on aging, care or disability issues, contact our Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601, email or visit our website.


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