Last month, I attended Safe & Savvy Senior Day. The event is an open house sponsored by our Health & Human Services (HHS) department. Individuals representing a variety of different agencies set up tables and presented information targeted to seniors in our community. I had reported on this event a couple of years ago, and I am happy to report that it is still going strong.
I was there to staff a booth explaining the county’s Dial-a-Ride transportation program, which is overseen by our Mobility Manager, Nicole Hill. Since Nicole had plenty of help at our Dial-a-Ride table, I checked out some of the other exhibits.
My first stop was to visit with detective Troy Pagenkopf from the sheriff’s office. He was demonstrating a new portable computer system that makes it easier to find folks who may be involved in Silver Alert situations. When a senior goes missing, the odds of bringing them home safely improve when law enforcement has complete information about who they are looking for. This computer system creates an electronic record of the subject that contains a wealth of information including photographs, fingerprints, automobile vehicle descriptions, license plate numbers, medical conditions and a host of other details.
Detective Pagenkopf reiterated several times that none of this information is retained by the sheriff. It is simply compiled and handed off to the individual or his or her family members on a small portable computer memory “stick.” If the worst should happen and an individual is reported missing, the family member can turn the memory stick over to law enforcement. This provides the police with an important head start in being able to find them.
Detective Pagenkopf was actually manning two tables at the fair. In addition to the identification system that I just described, he also specializes in fraud investigation and prevention. Swindlers are becoming more bold and sophisticated, and too often seniors are their targets. There is a tremendous amount of personal information available about all of us on the internet these days.
A few years ago, a gentleman I knew fell victim to a scam artist who claimed that his grandson was in jail in Mexico and needed bail money. The ruse was convincing because the swindler knew his grandson’s name. He ended up sending money orders to the criminal and lost $5,000. Just last year, another friend of mine almost fell for the same fraud. He had already taken cash out of the bank, and it was only after some questioning from his wife that he thought better of sending it.
One of the latest scams involves a caller who claims to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA). He or she presses victims to give them their Social Security numbers and they later become victims of identity theft. What’s worse is that the fraudster is often able to manipulate the caller ID system (through a process known as “spoofing”) so it appears that the call is really coming from SSA. There is a real simple way to avoid this crime: hang up. The SSA will never call you on the phone and ask you for your Social Security number, threaten your benefits, or ask you to pay them money.
Next up was a discussion with Joan Sallee from our County’s Veterans Services Office. Joan is a veterans service specialist. She pointed out that while today’s military does a pretty good job of educating servicemen and women about their benefits when they retire or complete their enlistments, this wasn’t always the case. Veterans of earlier wars, from WWII to Vietnam, were not always provided with detailed information when they mustered out of the service. Joan’s goal is to find all of these veterans, and an event like Safe and Savvy Senior Day provides her with a great opportunity.
Mel Davis took some time to tell me about a new program called TRIAD. Mel is a social worker at our Lakeland Health Care Center (LHCC). She recently took that position after working many years in Adult Protective Services at HHS. Mel explained that TRIAD is a partnership involving law enforcement, first responders and community groups. The purpose of TRIAD is to promote senior safety, and reduce the fear of crime that older adults experience.
Mel has been very active in terms of community outreach. She asked me to invite readers to a presentation that I think will be very inspirational and informative. Brian and Anne Reece founded “Bike Elves,” a project that has provided thousands of bicycles to needy children, and will change the way you think about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The presentation will be held on July 29 at 2 p.m. in the activity room of the LHCC.
Unfortunately, space prevents me from reporting on all of the services represented at the event, which included information on memory screening, health care and financial powers of attorney, as well as Alzheimer’s and dementia resources.
If you missed Safe & Savvy Senior Day, don’t worry. The services I described can be obtained by seniors year-round. A great place to start is at our Aging and Disabilities Resource Center, or ADRC.
Our ADRC is the first place to go to get accurate, unbiased information on all aspects of life related to aging or living with a disability. It is located at our HHS building, next to the Lakeland Hospital, at W4051 County Road NN, Elkhorn, Wisconsin 53121. The phone numbers are (262) 741-3400 or (800) 365-1587. Our ADRC is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After-hours appointments are available upon request.
David Bretl is the county administrator for Walworth County. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Walworth County Board of Supervisors.