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Security for the golden years.


DURING THE NEXT DECADE, the demand for quality security services for senior citizens will increase at a phenomenal rate. According to the US Census Bureau, the 65-and-over population has grown twice as fast as the remainder of the population since the early 1960s. By the year 2030, projections show one fifth of all Americans will be over age 65--an increase of 35 million people.

What accounts for this phenomenal growth in the elderly population? Quite simply, due to advances in science, medicine, and nutrition, the American life span has been extended. In 1988, the estimated average life expectancy in the United States reached a record level of 79 years for white females, 72.3 years for white males, 73.9 years for black females, and 65.5 years for black males.

As the American population gets older, the demand for security services and products will increase proportionately. Recent surveys conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) may assist security firms in defining the needs of the elderly. In these surveys, members of AARP have consistently ranked the fear of being too physically incapacitated to summon help in a medical emergency and the fear of crime as their primary concerns. Technical and procedural measures to assist in alleviating these fears already exist. A security manager in a senior housing development can play a major role in setting up programs to help senior citizens lead independent life-styles while minimizing their fears of crime and physical incapacitation through the following methods.

* The security manager can organize a regularly scheduled "call-and-check" service, provided at least once a day by the security providers to individually subscribed members. For proper execution of this system, security managers must be sure their employees maintain a daily log sheet, checking off the names of the senior citizens who are contacted at the prescribed time of day. Tenants should sign release forms allowing security personnel to enter their homes if contact is not made at the appointed time. By securing release forms, security personnel who have not made contact with clients may investigate further without the threat of legal liability.

* A senior citizen's residence can be equipped with a number of call switches or pull cords strategically located and monitored on a 24-hour basis by either a central station or security personnel within the complex.

* By wearing a medical alert transmitter around the neck, a senior citizen can summon aid.

* Motion and infrared detectors inside a residence can monitor a senior citizen's presence. These devices are used to sense if an elderly person is motionless for an extended period of time, in which case an alarm signal is transmitted to a central monitoring facility indicating that help may be needed.

All security directors are faced with the dilemma of trying to choose the appropriate equipment. When planning a security system for a senior citizen housing complex, however, the following factors should be considered.

* the crime rate in that neighborhood

* the mobility of the clients being served

* the safety and health concerns of the seniors

* the privacy of the tenants

* the complexity of the system to be installed (even pushbutton devices may prove difficult to use if tenants suffer from severe arthritis or rheumatism)

* the cost of the equipment and services

When financial resources are a concern, a closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring system can serve a dual purpose. While still somewhat costly, CCTV cameras positioned to monitor vestibules, courtyards, parking lots, entrances, laundry rooms, recreational facilities, and outside areas can serve to address the senior citizens' concerns of both a health and security nature. The camera that can spot an intruder can also spot a resident who obviously is having physical difficulties.

The security director should hold a meeting with tenants, explain the options available, assess their preferences, and ascertain how much they are willing to spend. After obtaining this data, he or she can devise a monitoring plan that will meet with the seniors' approval. During the initial assessment meeting with the tenants, the security director must be sure to address the issue of access control. For any early-warning lifesaving system to be effective, security personnel must be able to enter a residence when needed. Residence entrances within a senior complex could be specially equipped with electronic door latches that could be activated from a central monitoring station.

Perhaps the most serious crime issue security managers must address is theft from senior citizens' residences. A potential perpetrator can provide a needed service to a senior citizen, gain access to the senior's residence to be paid for services, observe the location of the senior's valuables, and return to steal them during a later visit. To address this crime, security managers must establish highly monitored access control, require positive identification of service providers who enter seniors' dwellings, and establish a system of monitoring these service providers.

Additionally, procedures should be established to prevent service providers from leaving the premises with any stolen property--such as by limiting access or exit points for service personnel. A bag and parcel inspection system also can be established to send the message that pilfering will not be tolerated.

SENIOR CITIZENS, SECURITY STAFF members, and local emergency medical services personnel could also acquaint themselves with the Vial of Life Program. This program is designed to give responding emergency medical personnel essential information on the medical history of the incapacitated senior citizen. This program consists of a plastic vial that is taped to the right-hand side of the top shelf of the tenant's refrigerator. Inside the vial is a listing that provides his or her name, address, telephone number, medical insurance coverage number, religious affiliation, hospital of preference, name and telephone number of his or her physician, name and telephone number of his or her pharmacy, allergies, current medications, medical problems, and persons to be contacted in an emergency. This information has proven invaluable to senior citizens who have been found unconscious or who are incoherent. The presence of such accurate medical information also provides vital information to hospital emergency room personnel.

An important aspect of running a successful security operation in a senior dwelling is the hiring of appropriate personnel. Security officers hired to protect and serve the elderly must be able to exercise patience and sensitivity to their needs. A security firm must hire personnel who are cognizant of the physical and mental changes of the elderly.

The number of people over 65 years old in the United States is already 13 percent higher than in 1980. While security providers are beginning to create better services, implement the latest and most cost-effective technology, and begin new programs to facilitate a better quality of life for our senior citizens, the security industry must continue to face the rising challenge presented by the rapidly growing senior citizen population.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:security programs for senior citizens
Author:Whittemore, Gerard
Publication:Security Management
Date:May 1, 1989
Previous Article:Diagnosing crime trends.
Next Article:One training program - to go.

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