INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - The 211 Helpline is spreading some sunshine to senior citizens in Indian River County who might need a daily wellness check.
The program, called Sunshine Daily Telephone Reassurance, has been in effect for more than 25 years in Martin County, but expanded June 1 to include Indian River County, and soon will begin in St. Lucie County.
How it works
Every day at a pre-selected time, volunteers from the 211 Helpline call seniors to inquire about their well-being.
If a senior fails to answer, the call is repeated several times before someone from their buddy list — pre-selected family, friends or neighbors notified in case of emergency — is called. If there is still no response, law enforcement is notified.
"The senior is able to pick the time they would like to be called," said Patrice Schroeder, 211 Helpline spokeswoman. "We ask them to let us know if they have an appointment that would prohibit them from answering the phone."
Why sign up?
Karen Deigl , president and CEO of the Senior Resource Association in Vero Beach, said the program is helpful in identifying isolated and vulnerable seniors at risk for medical emergencies.
Through her agency, at-risk seniors will be provided with short-term case management services to allow them to remain in their homes.
"We are excited to partner with 211 to bring the Helpline's Sunshine program to Indian River County," Deigl said. "There is a great need for this type of reassurance for homebound elders."
Since the beginning of the year, three participants have had their lives saved by the phone call, Schroeder said. These health emergencies included a stroke, a diabetic coma and a fall.
The Sebastian Police Department has for years had a similar program called RUOK? (standing for Are You OK?), said Officer Steve Marcinik, community policing specialist. For residents who sign up for RUOK?, a computer-generated phone call is made to their residence each day, with a recorded message from the department asking about their wellness.
If their phone line is busy or there is no answer, the system will call back two times. If there is still no answer, a police officer is dispatched to the home to check on the resident.
Marcinik said about 15 seniors are enrolled in the program. Participants are generally elderly or homebound and have specific physical or medical needs that require daily contact to make sure they are all right. Residents can enroll in RUOK? free of charge, and no special equipment is needed to receive the phone call.
For either service, the key benefit is peace of mind, Marcinik said.
"It gives our seniors comfort to know we're looking out for them," he said.
HOW TO SIGN UP
211's Sunshine Daily Telephone Reassurance program is free and available to seniors 60 and over. If you or someone you know would like a free daily phone call, dial 211. For more information, go to www.211treasurecoast.com .
Sebastian residents interested in the RUOK? program can apply by calling Officer Steve Marcinik at 772-589-5233, ext. 8576.