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Group keeps seniors’ needs in forefront

Jennifer Sprouse • Mar 9, 2013 at 9:14 PM

While seniors’ needs and reports of abuse are often overlooked, one local group has made it its mission to become advocates for the elderly community in Washington County.

Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (S.A.L.T.) Council, is a group of community members who meet the first Thursday of every month to discuss questions and concerns of the senior population.

Ed Jefferies, a chaplain with the Johnson City Police Department and Tennessee Highway Patrol, said the group consists of representatives from nursing homes, home health agencies, senior citizens, law enforcement –– JCPD, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Jonesborough Police Department — emergency management services, Contact Ministries, nonprofits including the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as AARP.

“It’s really important for the elder population to be involved in it because you get some month-to-month updates on things that are happening in the community right around you as far as crime situations,” Jefferies said.

He said at Thursday’s meeting that two projects the group is working on are the Silver Ribbon Program and Project Lifesaver.

Teresa Sutphin, projects specialist with the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability and a council member, said the Northeast Tennessee Vulnerable Adult Coalition will be working on the Silver Ribbon Program, which is a campaign that “brings awareness ... about elder abuse. We’re doing little cards with little silver ribbons on them.”

Sutphin said programs like S.A.L.T. are important because seniors often times do not want to contact police when incidents occur, but establishing relationships with local police departments would help seniors report issues they are experiencing in the community.

Tracey Wilson, community service representative with Home Instead Senior Care, discussed Project Lifesaver, which benefits seniors as well as others in the community.

Wilson said Project Lifesaver is a program where seniors and those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as well as others young and old who have autism or Down syndrome, are given a bracelet that acts as an electronic tracking device, so if they go missing, emergency personnel can easily and quickly locate them.

“It’s a wonderful program. A lot of the counties in our area have it and Washington County ... fortunately is one of the counties that will be getting it in the very near future,” she said.

Wilson said she’s been involved with S.A.L.T. for approximately 10 years and values its importance when it comes to educating the community.

“It’s just important to let folks know what’s going on in our community, so when and if it does affect them, they’re not taken advantage of,” she said. “It’s also extremely important to further the cause of elder abuse awareness. It is something that’s happening, especially with the economy going the way it is. People are more and more desperate, and so a lot of times our elderly folks are the ones that are being taken advantage of. Someone really needs to be an advocate for them.”

Sgt. Van Mominee, the JCPD’s representative at S.A.L.T. meetings, said seniors are often targeted by scams.

“A lot of seniors just want somebody to talk to and somebody will call them on the phone and engage them in a conversation and gain their trust ... and try to get personal information from them. It’s very unfortunate because they’re targeting seniors,” he said. “We, as the police department, in our involvement, we like to be out in the community, meet the community, see what their needs are, what their concerns are, assist them in any way we can.”

He said the meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend, and said he hopes attendance and participation by the seniors in the community does increase.

For more information, call Mominee at 434-6143.

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