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'Mequon Cares' program launched to aid seniors

Police keep tabs on residents living alone

Oct. 29, 2013

Mequon — "I've been here 44 years. I've got the city in my blood," says Louise Rzentkowski, 74, a former city clerk who spent 26 years of her life at City Hall before retiring in 2002.

After all that time looking out for the city, it's good to know the city is looking out for her, too.

Earlier this month the Mequon Police Department launched "Mequon Cares," a free service targeted for senior residents who live by themselves. Once seniors sign up for the service, they are expected to call the police department each morning to check in. If a member of the service does not make the customary call, police will begin calling a list of provided emergency contacts and send an officer out to check on the resident in person. In an extreme scenario, the officer will force entry into the home to make sure the person is alright.

"I'm hoping that brings (seniors) some sense of security," says Capt. Scott Tyler, "that if something did happen, we'd be able to check on them."

Copying Cedarburg program

Tyler says the department is following the example of nearby Cedarburg, which already has a similar program in place. He says the service will be valuable to a city with an aging population. According to the most recent census data, Mequon's median age (46.1) is about 12 years older than Milwaukee County's, about three years older than Ozaukee County's, and nearly eight years older than the state's. Mequon's 60-and-over crowd accounts for about a quarter of the city population, a greater percentage than in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties as well as the state, according to the census.

"If it takes off and helps the public, we're happy to do it," Tyler says.

Dawn Lant, a 26-year dispatcher at the Police Department, describes the check-in calls each morning as short, pleasant and nonobstructive to her daily duties. It's a service she wishes her own mother, who lives in the city of Milwaukee, would have available to her.

"I think it's great," Lant says. "I think that if the seniors are able to sign up and contact us, that's great."

And while only three seniors have signed up thus far, Tyler says there's room for Mequon Cares to grow. Already the department is working with Interfaith Caregivers of Ozaukee County, a local nonprofit which provides a variety of services to independent seniors in the area, to spread the word.

Big fan

Despite their efforts they may be a bit behind Rzentkowski, who, three weeks after the launch of the Mequon Cares is both a subscriber and the program's biggest proponent.

Driven by the goodwill of the program, the money it saves seniors who may otherwise have to purchase a similar service or product — think, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" type commercials — and the friendship she feels on the other end of the phone, she has taken to extolling the virtues of Mequon Cares after church, while running errands and over friendly games of Bunco.

"Wherever I go," she says. "If there's an old person there — in fact, I don't wait until they're old. If they're younger, I tell them, and if they get excited about it I'll get their parents in on it."

AT A GLANCE

Mequon Cares is a new program launched by the Mequon Police Department to ensure the well being of seniors who live by themselves. Anyone interested in the program can call (262) 242-3500 and ask for a clerk to sign up or can enroll online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/GTJBWNM.

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