Froio center rekindles 'Are You OK?' check on seniors

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PITTSFIELD — Come the new year, Pittsfield's Council on Aging will resurrect a program to help keep isolated seniors safe.

"This is just another safety net for folks," said Vincent Marinaro, executive director of the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center.

Marinaro and his staff are bringing back the "Are You OK?" program, in which staff place daily well-being calls to local seniors.

They plan to start calling a list of elders — three as of Nov. 30 — in January.

Front office staff at the senior center will call seniors who have requested the service daily, to make sure they haven't suffered anything like a fall.

"We do what we can," Marinaro said. "It doesn't cost us anything to help these folks be safe. That's what we're here for."

Seniors can sign themselves up, and loved ones can also request calls on a senior's behalf, subject to the person's approval.

"All we need is a name and a phone number," Marinaro said. "There's no obligation."

If staff suspect that there is a serious problem — illness, a fall or another concern — they'll ask police to check on the person.

"There's just so many elderly," Marinaro said of the local population. "And these [problems] are the kinds of things that are going to be happening."

The program was previously in place four or five years ago, but as requests dwindled, it fell off the radar.

The death of a former member of the center who lived alone this fall was a catalyst for the program's revival.

The woman's death was not discovered for about three days.

"Point A to Point B. Connect the dots," Marinaro said. "It just sort of underlines that we should bring this back."

Staff have always been concerned about members who stop coming to the center, said Connie Silver, who works the front desk.

"Kind of every day — one of us would say, 'Well, where is so-and-so?'" Silver said. "And we just — we don't know."

Staff continued to call people intermittently if they had concerns, but not in a formal, daily program, Marinaro said.

The program also provides a way to help combat loneliness — a common concern for people living in isolation.

Staff will be able to encourage people who are not regular visitors to come by the center.

"There's all kinds of possibilities with this program," Marinaro said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@berkshireeagle.com, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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