Hobart program ensures safety of city's seniors

2013-03-04T18:00:00Z 2013-03-04T23:10:06Z Hobart program ensures safety of city's seniorsDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | Doris Christian doesn't get paid for a job that plays upon her skills as cheerleader, counselor and sometimes police detective.

Two mornings a week, Christian contacts nine senior citizens as part of Safety Call Network, a program introduced by the Police Department in the fall of 2010.

"You feel good after you talk to them. It makes your feel better," Christian said.

The purpose of the program is to make sure senior citizens, currently a group of women ages 76 to 96, are safe, Christian said.

Lt. Jack Grennes and his assistant, Sarah Nussen, make contacts the other five days.

"I'm the only volunteer," Christian said.

Christian, 77, said some of the calls take a few minutes; some can run at long as an hour.

"They want to talk. They're home alone. Some tell me they don't know what they'd do without me calling them," Christian said.

Christian also has delivered groceries to seniors who can't drive and paid visits to those who have been hospitalized.

"Some have even told me they love me because I cheer them up," Christian said.

There have been times when the senior citizen on the list didn't answer after the required three calls.

Then, because emergency numbers of relatives are listed, Christian starts calling family members or even the hospital.

"I have to be a little bit of a detective at times, but I need to know what has happened," Christian said.

The program was inspired in part by the high number of so-called distraction scams reported in Hobart in 2010, Grennes said.

The distraction scams, generally involving theft,  typically target the city's older population, he said.

Seniors must first register for the program to become a member.

Once enrolled, a daily call is made to each person at a time of his or her choosing, from 8  to 11 a.m.

Grennes said he borrowed the idea for the program from one already in place in Fishers, Ind.

The Valparaiso Police Department introduced a more pared down program called Senior Care in 2009, Valparaiso Police Sgt. Mike Grennes said.

In Valparaiso, calls are made to seniors living alone, but only on days when there is extreme weather conditions, Mike Grennes said.

To sign up for the Hobart program, call  Lt. Jack Grennes at (219)942-1125, ext. 1070, or email grennes70@hobartpolice.net.

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