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On call

Published February 07. 2014 05:01PM

Most elderly parents I know want to live out their senior years with the independence of staying in their own homes. One study showed that 95 percent of people 75 and older say they want to stay in their homes indefinitely.

The choice of parents seeking to "age in place" can be a concern to their children who want to see them content in their golden years. One of the most common worries is the accidental fall that could send a senior to an assisted care facility.

There are many devices available - and constantly being developed - to help ease their fears. For the last 30 years, the personal medical alert systems have been literally answering the call. Home transmitters, which can be worn as a neck pendant or bracelet, can connect the seniors with a 24-hour call center at the touch of a button.

The Bucks County Sheriff's Office recently initiated its own program to make it easier for seniors to get emergency help. Persons 62 years old and older are entitled to free cellphones which are programmed for 911 emergency calls. In December, the first month for the Cells for Seniors program, more than 40 cellphones, all donated, were handed out to seniors.

After the sheriff's department receives the phones, they are wiped clean of all information and then programmed to go directly to the county communications center. Each device is tested with the county's emergency management services before being given out to the public. The county is not responsible for the cellphones' maintenance or upkeep.

To keep the program operational, the sheriff's office is seeking donations of used cellphones, including chargers. Lehigh and Northampton counties are looking at similar programs.

This kind of cooperation between law enforcement and the public is a winner. The bottom line is that it helps alleviate the fears of seniors and seeks to preserve the self-reliance they hope to maintain in their golden years.

By Jim Zbick

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