Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Neighbourhood watch to protect the elderly

Neighbourhood watch to protect the elderly

The Hindu

To provide protection and security to elders, the Bangalore police, in association with Nightingale's Medical Trust, will launch a neighbourhood watch programme on Friday. Residents are being invited to register with mobile squads that will visit city areas till October 8.

Under the programme, a group of residents from each locality will keep a close watch on the houses of elderly persons. Alarm systems will be installed in these houses to alert other residents of the area in an emergency.

"It is always good for the elderly to have a sympathetic person staying close to them. They would feel much safer," S. Mariswamy, Police Commissioner, says.

Security schemes for the elderly were essential, he said, "because they are a vulnerable community which needs to be protected."

Poor response

Last month, the city police launched a security scheme for the elderly. As part of this scheme, elders need to register their names and telephone numbers with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and the city police. In an emergency, all they need to do is pick up the receiver and hold it for 20 seconds. An alert will immediately be sounded at the nearest police station.

However, because of lack of publicity, the response to the scheme is poor, Mr. Mariswamy says. A month after the scheme was launched, not one person has registered for it.

That is why the Elders' Helpline (1090) is planning to help promote the scheme. It is considering making it possible for elderly persons to register for these security schemes through the Helpline. "It would make it much simpler for elder citizens," says Radha S. Murthy, Managing Trustee of Nightingale's Medical Trust, which operates the Helpline in association with the city police.

Last month, the Helpline received 577 calls of which 55 were complaints of abuse, neglect and harassment. An analysis of the cases found that 16 people complained of harassment by family members, 15 said they had been cheated and 14 others complained of emotional and physical abuse.

Missing persons

The number of senior citizens in their late 60s or 70s reported missing and later found wandering, unable to remember their addresses or phone numbers, is increasing. Ten cases were reported last month. "Most of them come from respectable middle-class families and they suddenly find themselves lost. Memory loss from dementia is the reason in most cases,'' Ms. Murthy says.

She adds that it becomes a problem when an elderly person who is lost is unable to give details of his or her home. This is why the Elders' Helpline is appealing to families with aged persons to make sure the elders carry an ID card with name, address and phone number.


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