Program ‘checks up’ on seniors

The Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Rice City Seniors have teamed up to bring a service to the parish that will help take care of the people who took care of us.
The service – Phone-a-Friend – is free, easy to be enrolled in and designed to ensure the well-being of the parish’s senior residents.
The community outreach program is a simple one that can make a lot of difference in a person’s life. With Phone-a-Friend, volunteers will call seniors to check on them, providing them with a lifeline they might not otherwise have.
“Our goal with this program is to take care of our seniors, now in their golden years, who paved the way for us,” said Sheriff K.P. Gibson.
According to Sheriff Gibson, there was a similar program offered some years ago that just sort of faded away. The needs of the parish’s senior citizens, however, have not faded away, and many of them don’t have family nearby or live alone and may not have regular contact with anyone.
Because of his concern for the parish’s senior residents, the sheriff approached the Rice City Seniors and asked them to partner with the APSO for the Phone-a-Friend service. The Rice City Seniors hopped on board and will be providing the volunteers for the service.
A senior signed up for the service will receive a phone call from a volunteer approximately twice a week. If no one answers when a call is placed, the volunteer will call again later. If no one answers a second time, the volunteer will contact APSO dispatch and a deputy will be sent to the senior’s residence for a service call. The volunteer will also call the senior’s emergency contact.
Sheriff Gibson is very excited about the Phone-a-Friend program because it offers a dual benefit to its participants – someone to check on their welfare and someone to lend an ear.
The latter is where the partnership with the Rice City Seniors becomes particularly significant. As Sheriff Gibson noted, the Rice City Seniors will be able to offer something his deputies might not be able to - an understanding of the concerns faced by aging citizens.
It’s Gibson’s hope that the volunteers will develop rapports with the recipients of the Phone-a-Friend services such that the recipients may feel comfortable sharing health or safety concerns with the volunteers. The APSO will then be able to liaise with the recipient’s family or emergency contact to connect them with the necessary resources.
Sheriff Gibson really wants to see the Phone-a-Friend service, which has the capacity to handle a large number of senior citizens in need of calls, grow and succeed.
He stresses that the APSO does not need a lot of personal information about the recipients of the service. All they need is the name, address and phone number of the senior, along with the name and phone number of a family member or emergency contact.
He also emphasizes that the volunteers will be members of the Rice City Seniors organization and will receive training with regard to how to handle the variety of situations that may come up.
“Our goal is to help senior citizens who don’t have family around to make sure they’re safe and okay,” said Gibson.
However, even someone who doesn’t live far away but is concerned about a parent or loved one can sign that parent or loved one up for the service, noted Gibson. Additionally, the service is available to couples, not just singles. The APSO is currently working with the Acadia Council on Aging to identify seniors who might benefit from the program.
To sign up for the Phone-a-Friend service for yourself or a family member or loved one, contact Kim Deville at the APSO at 788-8793 or

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