Nassau seniors will now be able to receive alerts from the county police department on weather-related emergencies, major road closures and scams targeting the elderly.
The pilot program, announced Monday in Mineola, also requires Nassau police officers to visit at least one senior on their patrol route each day to check on their welfare and advise them of services.
"There's a lot of fear and we want to make sure that [seniors are] reassured that they're going to be OK, that we're there for them and that they don't have to be scared," said County Executive Laura Curran.
The alerts, through the county's Smart911 system, will provide residents with details about incoming storms and major crimes targeting seniors. Residents can decide if they want to be alerted by text, email or robocall and the county will work with area senior centers and day programs to spread word of the program.
More than 18% of Nassau's 1.3 million residents are 65 and over, while a growing number are classified as "orphan seniors" — individuals who lost their spouse or siblings and their children no longer live nearby.
Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the isolation felt by those seniors, making them particularly vulnerable to con artists. The department last year tracked 165 scams perpetrated against seniors. The goal, Ryder said, will be for officers to visit each day roughly 200 Nassau seniors enrolled in the program.
"One visit a day — two minutes out of a cop's day — is going to change a lifetime in feeling secure for our seniors," Ryder said.
Stuart Tauber, vice president of United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York, said the pandemic has left seniors feeling alone and riddled with anxiety.
"The isolation itself is torture," Tauber said. "If a tragedy or emergency occurs, being alone just maximizes that torture and what those challenges are all about."
With John Valenti and Chris Ware