The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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January 22, 2014

Older residents can sign up for Senior Watch program

BROOKFIELD — Hoping to prevent a tragedy for those who live alone, Brookfield Township has started a Senior Watch program aimed at checking on its at-risk residents.

Mark DeSabato, volunteer director of the program, said residents who want to participate in the free program have two options. The first is the check-in program where senior citizens or anyone who is disabled chooses a day and a time and they check in with volunteers. If they miss that once-weekly check-in, a volunteer will call them and if they don’t get a response, the police department will check on them, he said.

“The convenience of that is that they don’t have to be home. They can call from anywhere, just to let us know they are OK,” DeSabato said.

The other program, the Safety Call, adds clients to a list that volunteers call between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays. If residents do not answer, police will check on them. With that program, there is some flexibility and calls can be made more than once a week, if needed, he said.

Currently, DeSabato is the only volunteer manning the phone, but he has others who are able to help once the word gets out and the program grows, he said.

Clients can sign up by filling out an application at the Brookfield Township Administration building, 6844 Strimbu Drive, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Application can also be made online at www.brookfieldtwp.org

The application asks for basic information and asks clients which program they want to participate in. The application is forwarded to DeSabato and a “site evaluation” of the client’s home is done by a member of the police department to determine any safety concerns or special needs at the residence.

The program is open to anyone age 65 or older or anyone who is disabled.

DeSabato said the program was started after a tragic incident in nearby Liberty, where an elderly woman fell outside on her porch and was unable to get any help. She died on the porch, he said.

“She was outside and at first she was yelling and though people heard her, they didn’t know where it was coming from,” he said. “If we can prevent anything like that from happening, we certainly want to,” he said.

“For some, just to have that peace of mind that someone will be checking on them, can make all the difference,” he said.

He cited Census statistics that say more than 12 percent of the nation’s population is older than 65, amounting to more than 40 million people. “And Brookfield is no stranger to this trend,” he said, though he didn’t know exactly how many elderly live in Brookfield.

DeSabato said he volunteered to run the program as a way of giving back to the community. He was a volunteer firefighter for Brookfield, though he said health reasons have kept him from being an active member for several years.

For more information, DeSabato can be reached at 330-448-6960.

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