Hundreds of police agencies in small towns across the country are using robocalls to make daily checks on older residents who live alone.
Advocates for the program say it’s a way of helping older people stay independent and in their own homes longer. Robocall technology is inexpensive, which makes it affordable for police departments in smaller towns and cities, where the automated check-in idea works best; in big cities, where older residents may greatly outnumber police, such programs can strain resources.
People who sign up for the program specify what time of day they want to be called. Automated instructions tell them to press a certain number if they are OK. If they don’t respond after several calls, police call their emergency contact or visit the house.
“A lot of the seniors who sign up are concerned that they could pass and not be discovered for days,” Winter Park, Fla., police officer Randall Morrissey told the Washington Post. “With this program, it’s comforting for them to know they could be found.”
“It helps ensure for the elderly person or their family that a phone call is being made every morning, that everything is OK,” said Cmdr. Jack Vaccaro of the Lighthouse Point, Fla., police department.
Lighthouse Point has only nine people enrolled in its program, but the Census Bureau estimates that the number of 65-and-older Americans will climb to nearly 70 million by 2030.
The program has had dramatic results. In Belton, Texas, where 130 older residents have signed up for the robocalls, one man fell in his house on a Friday afternoon after his daily call and remained helpless on the floor all weekend. On Monday, when he didn’t answer his robocall, police went to his home and rescued him.