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Fla. program aims to prevent crimes against the elderly

By Staff | Jun 16, 2009

Seniors are some of the most vulnerable members of society. They are often taken advantage of in a myriad of ways, with criminals preying on everything from their finances to their personal safety.
A program Monday at the Lake Kennedy Senior Center was designed to counter some of those threats by educating Cape Coral seniors.
Dubbed “Safeguard our Seniors,” the program is the brainchild of state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who hopes to quell the rising tide of crimes against elderly Floridians.
The two-hour program featured presentations that included keeping seniors safe in many areas.
AARP State President Doug Heinlen told the group of about 30 people that they should not be afraid to ask questions of their financial advisors. Without the right information, decisions are often made that have negative consequences.
“No one wants to admit they don’t understand something,” he said. “But just like you ask questions about TVs at Best Buy, you have to ask questions of a financial advisor … if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
The Cape Coral Police Department discussed free safety programs seniors can take advantage of.
Home security system checks let officers test the strength of alarm systems, while vacation security checks provide checkups of a property for up to a month, twice a week.
Officer Jerry Moll talked about the simple things homeowners can do to deter potential thefts, including leaving some lights on, televisions running and keeping cell phones handy.
The less opportunity criminals have, the less chance they are to approach your home.
“We’re not trying to change the mind of the criminal, we’re trying to get them to move somewhere else,” Moll said. “This doesn’t mean Cape Coral is a bad area. Any place could have the challenges we have.”
Another speaker was Deloris Ann Proie, from the state funded Ombudsman program, a sort of watchdog group that focuses on making sure elderly care facilities are run properly.
“We protect the rights of our most fragile citizens,” she said. “We’re proud of what we do and we’re proud to help the people we do. If we don’t care for each other, who will?”
Residents who attended the program were surprised and enlightened by the information presented.
David Stacy, of Gateway, said seniors often struggle with using the Internet as a source of information.
“We function differently from the rest of the population,” he said. “All of these people are coping with that … a lot of them always get their information by word of mouth.”
Some, like Cape resident David Knize, attended to learn more about programs like Ombudsman. He hopes to become a volunteer.
“I was reinforced today,” he said. “I already had an idea this is something I wanted to do, but now it’s reinforced.”
Terry Cerullo, who organized Monday’s event along with similar ones around the state, said he was not disappointed with the turnout, despite the smaller number.
“If we could save one citizen from making a critical error, it’s worth it,” he said.
Visit: MyFloridaCFO.com or call (877) 693-5236 for details.