SUMMERSIDE — A new program, initiated by a business that works to help keep seniors in their homes, is helping provide Islanders in their golden years with an added sense of security.
Home Instead Senior Care recently launched its Cellphones for Seniors Program, which provides the public the opportunity to donate their old cellphones to seniors to use in an emergency.
One of those seniors is Margaret Paton. The 81-year-old city woman saw the program advertised and jumped at the chance to get one of the phones.
Paton, who lives on her own, was left without a phone during a storm recently, leaving her fearful of what could happen if she ever fell or had an emergency.
“I thought I don’t have anything and I could be there for two or three days if something happened. I thought this program was for me,” she added. “I’m getting my phone today. It’s wonderful.”
Having never used a cellphone before, Paton got a quick tutorial Tuesday morning from Home Instead Senior Care’s Heather Blouin at East Prince Seniors Initiative, one of the locations where people can drop off their used phones.
“I have it just to call 911, so I should be able to catch on to it,” she added. “I am going to get a paper with information.”
The active senior said having the cellphone, even if it is only to make an emergency call, gives her a sense of security.
“I can call if my car breaks down. I can call for help. It’s wonderful. It’s a great idea.”
Blouin said the company came up with the idea for the program, which she believes is the first of its kind on P.E.I., after hearing of a similar initiative in Vancouver.
If an accident or medical emergency comes up, the hope is that a senior has the phone on them or nearby and is able to call 911 for help immediately.
“It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” said Blouin. “If it helps one person, it’s great. It helps everyone because it gives them confidence. If they want to walk to the end of their driveway to get their mail, they have that so they can feel safe and secure.”
EPSI’s executive director, Gloria Schurman, praised the program.
“With fixed incomes and the higher cost of everything, it is getting tougher and tougher all the time,” said Schurman. “Anything that can help stretch a dollar, we are all for that.”
It may even help some seniors stay in their homes longer.
“A lot of times when seniors make the jump out of their homes it is for something small, it is for something that we think is insignificant but maybe after struggling for a couple of years… they say that’s it.”
Cellphones are being accepted until March 1 and will be available to any senior in need, not just clients of Home Instead Senior Care, said Blouin.
All donated phones will be cleared of any personal data before being distributed.
Phones are not activated and there is no ongoing cost for the recipient since all cellphones, even when deactivated and without a SIM card, have the capability, when 911 is dialed, to connect with emergency services.
“Some of our older, more frail seniors aren’t in the habit of having cellphones or are not in a position to afford a cellphone or a Lifeline,” said Blouin. “If we can provide that to them, free, it is an added measure — it’s not the only measure — in the event of a power outage or emergency.”
Already, close to 20 used cellphones have been dropped off in Prince County.
Recipients are reminded to keep cellphones on them and fully charged at all times, especially during a power outage when land-line phone service can be disrupted or cordless phones don’t work.
Home Instead is also asking for the public’s help to identify seniors across P.E.I. who would benefit from having a cellphone for access to emergency services. All seniors who receive a donated cellphone through the program will be educated on how it can serve as an extra measure to increase their personal safety.
Old cellphones and chargers can be dropped off at several Island locations, including East Prince Seniors Initiative at Credit Union Place, Summerside; Home Instead Senior Care, 4 Walker Dr., Charlottetown; Montague Wellness Centre, Wood Islands Road, Montague; and, in West Prince, at the Tignish Employment Resource Centre, 211 Phillip St., Tignish.
For more information about the program or to recommend a P.E.I. senior who could use a donated cellphone, please call 367-3868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.