How These Police Initiatives Are Keeping Seniors Safe

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Police initiatives for senior citizens across cities like Chennai and few others are aimed at keeping them safe and secure. We take a look at few.

When 94-year-old Viswanathan (name changed on request) was on his deathbed, his son, who had flown in from overseas, was surprised that his father kept asking for a certain “John.” Later, the housemaid informed him who John was: the beat officer from the local police station. When Viswanathan registered as a senior citizen living alone, beat officers visited him daily, to sign in a log book provided for the purpose. When John would come to sign the book, he would often stay and chat with Viswanathan. When Viswanathan passed away, John was at the ceremony too.

“Such stories are not uncommon,” said M.S.Bhaskar, inspector at the R-7 police station in K.K. Nagar, Chennai, on the sidelines of an event where Senior Citizen ID cards were issued to about 50 seniors by the police. The Senior Citizen ID booklet is a passport-sized booklet which contains important personal and medical information.

“This has become necessary as the number of seniors who do not live with their children has increased over the years,” said Bhaskar. “Caring for seniors is one of our focus points.” In fact, that has been one of the directives of Chennai’s commissioner of police, A.K. Viswanathan—closer ties between the police and the community they serve. The K.K. Nagar Police Station has taken a lead in the process, and Bhaskar credits it to the entire police team: right from Commissioner Viswanathan and Additional Commissioner (Law and Order) K. Shankar, to local beat officers and patrol officers who interface with seniors and their families.

Through their various services, Chennai police have been known to perform a variety of services, including speaking with errant sons and daughters of seniors, calling an ambulance, helping seniors with purchasing medicines and hailing an auto.

These services are managed by the Chennai police, in contrast to the Senior Citizen Helpline at 1253, run by the police in association with Help Age India.

This shifting of focus to the police as a primary source of contact for seniors has its limitations, as police personnel might not be adequately trained to counsel seniors or their children. It also means that the services provided would be dependent on individual police personnel. However, the current push toward direct contact improves the relationship between the police and seniors. And in the case of Viswanathan, a feeling of safety for life.

Some of the services that the Chennai police provide are:

Senior ID cards: This is a card that senior citizen can carry with them, which contains vital personal and medical information. This is to enable immediate identification and appropriate treatment in case hospitalisation is required. To avail of the card, which has been mandated in every police station, a senior citizen has to only fill in a form that is available at the nearest police station.

Single-press call to the police: Like most cities, Chennai maintains a database of senior citizens, with important information such as blood group and address. Seniors must register themselves to be part of the initiative, and let police know in case of any change. In an emergency, all the senior has to do is long-press “2” to connect directly with the police who will dispatch a team to the registered address and then call an ambulance or advise the caller appropriately. This requires setting up speed dial on the landline or mobile phone, which police assists with.

Daily check-ins: This is a service for senior citizens living by themselves or with their spouse. Seniors must register with the police for this service. Police check in with the senior every day, signing a log book maintained for the purpose. During the visit, police also assist senior citizens with activities they are having trouble with.

Such initiatives are not unique to Chennai. Several cities have their own senior care coordinated by the police departments.

Bengaluru is one of the cities with a well-oiled support helpline, a joint project of the Bangalore City Police and Nightingales Medical Trust. The toll-free number is manned by volunteers, who provide, among other services, legal help, counselling, and police intervention.

Mumbai has a dedicated helpline called ElderLine, comprised of medical professionals, social workers, legal professionals and general citizens who come together to form what the police calls “The Protective Circle.” Senior citizens register themselves by calling 1090, and can call the number for help. Using technology, the nearest volunteer and/or police are identified and dispatched to the address. The senior can also simply call to speak with or request a service from a volunteer—purchasing medicines from a store, for instance.

Delhi has a Senior Citizen Cell and encourages seniors to register themselves at their nearest police station or online at http://www.delhipolice.nic.in/seniorcitizen/addnew.aspx

Like Chennai, Delhi also has a “police visit” initiative, where officers visit the senior citizens to ensure their safety and comfort. They also help with background checks of domestic help who are hired.

Kolkata has an initiative “Pronom” in association with The Bengal, an NGO. Through the initiative, senior citizens can print out the registration form (available here: http://www.kolkatapolice.gov.in/images/docs/regform.pdf) and submit it to the Ballygunge Police Station. On registration, senior citizens become eligible for a personal security audit of their homes and surroundings. Fortnightly/monthly visits by the police are undertaken. This is in addition to the 24-hour helpline maintained by Pronom and Kolkata Police.

A comprehensive list of senior helplines can be found here.

About Author

Meera Rajagopalan

Meera Rajagopalan is a Chennai-based writer whose work veers around the theme of identity. Her work, both fiction and non-fiction, has appeared in anthologies, The Madras Mag and Arts Illustrated, among others.