By LISA CAPOBIANCO
With the holiday season just around the corner, senior citizens may become victims of a scam, including identity theft or financial exploitation.
On Nov. 19, the West Central Connecticut TRIAD will team up with People’s United Bank and Cigna to host a free event, “Holiday Safe-Tea,” which aims to help safeguard seniors from fraudulent activity that occurs around the holidays.
Community Impact Coordinator Liz Bohmier, who joined United Way in February, said a similar program took place in Waterbury. During that event, different community groups, including police and fire departments as well as the water department answered questions that seniors had, providing an opportunity for older adults to become more familiar with them.
Bohmier said the upcoming Holiday Safe-Tea will be tailored to the Bristol community by making a list of all the different contacts in the different towns to share with seniors so they know who to call if someone suspicious comes to their door.
Organized by the United Way of West Central Connecticut in 2012, TRIAD serves the communities of Bristol, Plainville, Burlington, and Plymouth. TRIAD serves as a national community partnership between local towns and cities, senior centers, police departments, local businesses and community organizations to help improve the health and safety of older adults through education and outreach activities.
Holiday “Safe-Tea” serves as just one of many programs TRIAD holds not only to educate seniors, but also to help them feel safe.
“Our goal is to help bring awareness to the audience whether it is a senior or a caregiver,” said president and CPO of United Way of West Central Connecticut Donna Osuch, adding how the event will educate seniors on how scammers target others and how to protect themselves from those scams. “The main goal is to ensure people are aware of safety, to protect their homes and themselves.”
Connecticut has over 40 TRIAD communities alone. TRIAD activities aim to prevent crime and to mitigate fear of crimes among seniors, as well as to identify misconceptions about criminal activity, stated the United Way’s website.
Osuch said before TRIAD began, United Way completed a community needs assessment about seven to eight years ago. The process included 5,000 surveys, focus groups with seniors and service providers in each community, and interviews. Osuch said a lengthy report resulted from the assessment, which included top needs such as health care and transportation. Other needs included access to service and isolation, said Osuch.
After the results of the assessment, Osuch said United Way and other parts of the community, including senior centers, towns and cities, wanted to find a way to address the isolation issue, hence working together to bring TRIAD back to the Bristol area.
“There are many TRIADS all over the country,” said Osuch, adding TRIAD was in Bristol at one time previously but did not continue. “United Way is able to bring this glue that brings all these [groups] together.”
Looking ahead, Osuch said she hopes TRIAD will continue its collaboration to ensure that “seniors are not feeling isolated” and to have “access to services and knowledge to ensure their own health and safety.”
“We’ve built some strong collaborations in the last couple of years,” said Osuch, adding they also have built collaboration among seniors of different communities TRIAD serves.
Over the past couple of years, TRIAD has held a variety of programs and events to help foster seniors’ health and safety. This past spring, TRIAD held a health and safety conference called “Stay Strong, Live Long.” The event not only included yoga and Zumba demonstrations, but also a three-person panel of health professionals who spoke about living healthy, nutrition, and respiratory therapy.
In addition, seniors had an opportunity to undergo health screenings and to speak with law enforcement groups, civic groups, and organizations on hand.
During the conference, geriatric medical practitioner Dr. Margarita Reyes shared ways in which some countries see their citizens living well into their 90s and 100-years and why. Dr. Miles Everett, a dietician and registered nurse of Bristol Hospital, discussed healthy eating and what to look out for on food labels, as packaging can be deceiving.
“Protection from fraud and crime tends to be a common theme for TRIADs, but that’s necessarily the only theme,” said Osuch.
Besides holding conferences, TRIAD has introduced the Yellow Dot program, which allows participants to carry a card with important information in their car’s glove compartment. Under this program, a yellow dot decal is placed on the inside rear windshield of the driver’s side to tell emergency first responders where to look for that information.
Ideas for these kinds of programs stem from the people who make up TRIAD itself, such as senior centers, long-term care facilities, police officers, and seniors who serve on the committee. During their monthly meetings, TRIAD receives the latest update on scams that may be occurring in the area.
Bohmier said they expect to receive more ideas for future programs through the “Quality of Life Survey 2014” that is currently being sent through the senior centers of different communities. Survey questions explore the top five health and safety concerns of seniors as well as the kind of programs they would be interested in and where they would attend those programs. The survey also determines whether those seniors would be interested in becoming a volunteer.
“We’re hoping to find out what programs they would be most interested in, so we know how to direct our resources and our time for upcoming programs,” said Bohmier, who convenes the TRIAD meetings.
Bohmier said TRIAD will continue to collect the surveys until the end of December.
The Holiday Safe-Tea event will take place Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. at Bristol Public Library. The snow date is Nov. 20. The event is free and open to the public. Tea and cookies will be served.
To take the survey, visit http://www.uwwestcentralct.org/triad-survey-2014.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO