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The Maryland Department of Aging launched the program in January, but retooled and reemphasized it as coronavirus began to spread across the state.
Three months ago, the Maryland Department of Aging launched a senior check-in program, a free initiative that places an automated telephone call to check on residents aged 65 and over.
The voluntary program, the first of its kind in the nation, was designed as a safeguard for senior citizens living independently at home, “to prevent someone from languishing on the floor after a fall or other calamity,” Rona Kramer, Maryland Secretary of Aging, said in a statement. But state officials have revised the program amid the spread of Covid-19, adding emergency preparedness information and updates on the outbreak to the automated phone system.
Kramer urged seniors to register for the program in two video updates on the state’s coronavirus response and the Department of Aging highlighted the measure in its online resources for older residents.
“We recommend all seniors use the program as a resource during the Covid-19 global pandemic,” the agency said on its website. “We will provide messages and updates regarding the Covid-19 outbreak where to find support if you need it. Finally, regarding our emergency preparedness for handling possible disruption from Covid-19, we can provide you information at this time of need.”
Participants in the program receive an automated call each day between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. within a one-hour time frame of their choosing. If no one answers the phone, the system will call back twice within the same day. If all calls go unanswered, the system will notify an alternate person (typically a neighbor or family member) selected by the program participant. If that person doesn’t answer, or if no alternate is available when the participant registers, the state dispatches law enforcement officers to conduct a wellness check.
People over the age of 60 are at greater risk of complications as a result of contracting the virus, particularly if they life with pre-existing health conditions, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. As of Thursday morning, Maryland had 15,737 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with roughly a third—5,158—afflicting adults age 60 or over. Most of the state’s confirmed coronavirus deaths—507 of 680—were also elderly residents.
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Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.