- Alex Marro
Should I start a telephone reassurance program for seniors in my community?
Update: With the onset of COVID-19, the number of home-bound and isolated seniors has skyrocketed, creating the highest demand we've ever seen for starting a telephone reassurance program. If your community needs help or has any questions about setting up your program, email us directly at email@example.com.
Many seniors, especially those who live alone, are feeling lonely, isolated, and unsafe. In fact, over a quarter of people over age 60 live alone, according to a Pew Research Survey, and one American senior falls every second of every day.
These seniors often don't have family members or friends nearby, and they may not leave their homes due to health reasons. As a result, many rely on their communities for support and help if something were to go wrong.
How can you help? A tried and true way to help them is by offering them access to a telephone reassurance program.
Support elders who want to remain independent
Daily checkups promote health and wellbeing
Makes old age not a job for children or grandchildren
Saves money on healthcare costs for senior citizens
Telephone reassurance programs started in the US around 1987 when the first telephone reassurance program, RUOK ("Are you ok?"), was developed. It was an expensive but reliable system that used a dialing machine to make automated calls to seniors in the community. The program was quickly adopted by over 2,000 law enforcement agencies and nonprofits across the US.
Questions to ask yourself before starting a program
Should the program be about safety or social contact?
Think about why your community needs a program in the first place. Answering this question will help set a north star and vision for your program.
If the answer is safety (most common), your telephone reassurance program must be consistent, reliable, and daily. An automated call system (e.g., My Safety Call) is the best solution for you. You'll never have to worry about missed calls, human error, or working on weekends. When it comes to bottom-line safety, computerized systems are the best option.
If the answer is only social contact (less common), you'll likely want to start a volunteer program to administer calls manually. Examples of these types of programs are often called YANA (You Are Not Alone). These programs can be great for your community but are more difficult to set up as they require a team of volunteers or paid staff to keep them running.
How can I fund my program?
So you've decided to start a program, but now comes the dreaded question, how much will it cost? The good news is if you decided to start an automated program, it only costs has system costs, not time. So you don't need to hire employees or recruit volunteers.
The first telephone reassurance program, RUOK, had a one-time cost of $7,500 to get started. The cost was high because you needed to purchase a dialing machine, modem, phone line, monthly phone bill, etc. These days, the best modern solutions are 100% cloud-based. You log into a website, enter in the information of the senior to call and when, and the system makes the calls remotely.
Now, the cost has been dramatically brought down and has since changed from a one-time payment to a recurring monthly or yearly cost. One example, My Safety Call, charges $10/senior/month (flexible for different organizational needs). The prices for other programs can vary, typically ranging between ranging to $15-170/senior/month.
However, before spending any money on a telephone reassurance vendor, ask them for a free trial. If they believe you'll love their software, they'll gladly let you try it for free before purchasing.
If your organization does not have any room in the budget, consider applying for a grant. Plenty of organizations offer funding to support seniors. Search Google for "Grants for seniors and aging in [YOUR STATE]." We have a grant template available to help you with this process. So if you need help, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're so happy you want to start a telephone reassurance program! It's an exciting journey, and you're doing a tremendous service to your community. If you need any help at all, check out www.MySafetyCall.com or email us at email@example.com.