Published Wednesday, February 1, 2023
The Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) has joined forces with the St. Cloud Police Department to provide monitoring and oversight for St. Cloud senior citizens 60 years and older, who live alone and without family nearby. The Senior Watch Program provides a unique community outreach approach in support of St. Cloud seniors. Presently, nearly 20 senior homes are checked on every weekend (and weekdays when necessary) by the St. Cloud Police Department.
“Our Senior Watch Program is an amazing initiative which allows our police department to build positive relations with the senior community,” said SCPD Officer Fran Rinehart. “It helps reduce senior victimization, enhances a sense of security, and improves their quality of life. I often feel our officers get more from the program than our seniors. Knowing they can help make a positive difference in a senior’s life is incentive enough.”
The mission is simply to enable officers to visit seniors at their residence to make sure their health and overall wellbeing are being managed properly. This outreach also builds trust and collaboration while providing an opportunity to address issues that seniors could be having with outside offenders trying to take advantage.
“Luckily, the program also focuses on elderly crime prevention such as abuse, neglect, exploitation, and fraud,” said Wilda Belisle, Council on Aging SVP of Nutritional Services. “These officers are angels in disguise! On many occasions, the officers do much more than simply visit.”
Belisle is referring to chores in which the officers often partake such as changing light bulbs, taking out trash, and moving furniture; chores we often take for granted.
“They sit and listen to our seniors. They are concerned when they cannot reach them,” Belisle added. “I am so thankful for Chief (Doug) Goerke and the awesome Officers of the St. Cloud Police Department. They are an amazing example for all of us.”
In follow-up to each senior visit, reports are sent to the OCOA for ‘checks and balances’ of all seniors visited. Any concerns or issues observed are immediately reported to the Community Outreach Unit, the OCOA, and/or immediate family members. Depending on the severity, the Department of Children and Families may be notified. In the event a senior is not home, contact is made by telephone; if the senior cannot be located, officers immediately contact the OCOA for follow-up and guidance.
Additionally, the St. Cloud Police Department provides Senior Watch members with emergency magnets. These magnets contain a list of nonemergency numbers, family/friends contacts, medication list, and DNR information. The magnets help plan for emergencies and provide first responders with pertinent information for emergent situations.
Many seniors are referred to the program as ‘needing this oversight’ from seniors themselves, recommendations from officers, and concerned family members. The program is free of charge, though extensive applications are required for background purposes so officials can be readily accessible when needed.
I personally want to thank the St. Cloud Police Department for their unwavering support and expansive efforts given to this program. We love the fact that these officers not only serve our community but also go the extra mile to “serve and protect” our seniors!
For more information contact the St. Cloud Police Department’s Community Outreach Unit office, or Sgt. Wayne Souza directly at WSouza@stcloud.org, or (407) 891-6765.