Free medical alert pendants available

by Peter Boody, Shelter Island Reporter, July 20, 2012

A new program to give qualified Shelter Island seniors who live alone a free medical alert pendant will be launched next month, it was announced this week by Seymour Weissman, president of the town’s Senior Citizens Foundation Inc., a private non-profit agency that is funding the program.

Starting in October (2012), the “Be Safe at Home” personal emergency response system will be provided at no charge to qualified low-income seniors, Mr. Weissman said. Seniors will be given a beeper to wear and a base receiver/transmitter, which is connected to a land-line telephone. The retail value of the system is $425; to eligible seniors, it will be supplied at no cost.

In the event of an emergency, the senior can press a button on the beeper, which can be worn either necklace or bracelet. That activates the receiver/transmitter unit, which can pick up the senior’s voice through a microphone on the beeper within a radius of up to 200 feet. The transmitter then makes a phone connection to a command center, where personnel report the call to police, ambulance or fire departments.

If a senior is unable to speak, the command center will automatically dial the senior’s phone number. If he or she fails to pick up, the center will then summon help to the senior’s address.

“This is a critically important feature of the ‘Be Safe at Home System,’” Mr. Weissman said, “for it provides a practical fail-safe if you lose consciousness as the result of a seizure or a fall.”

According to figures compiled by the Center for Disease Control, falls are the most common cause of fatal injuries among adults 65 and older. Each year, one out of three older adults falls.

People age 75 and older are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility as the result of a fall. Among the reasons are declining eye­sight; loss of balance; side effects of medications; and collisions with ordinary household hazards such as stairs and furniture.

“No doubt, we all know some old-timer who has been severely injured in a fall,” said Mr. Weissman, “and can vividly imagine the sense of helplessness and terror that may have overcome this person had he or she been living alone. To live alone at what we jokingly call ‘ripe old age’ is at best a risky business. Most likely, the odds of avoiding the consequences of solitary old age are better at Foxwoods.”

That’s why the Senior Citizens Foundation is focusing its attention and resources on the elderly who live alone, he explained; in particular, those seniors who cannot afford to pay for a personal emergency response system. He added that all of the officers of the Senior Citizens Foundation are seniors and three of them live alone.

Mr. Weissman asked those seniors interested in the program who think they may qualify to write to the Senior Citizens Foundation at Box 352, Shelter Island 11964 or call 631-268-5723 (or send an email to

A non-profit charitable foundation serving Shelter Island's senior citizens