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Police phone calls provide comfort to live-alone elderly

Getting a phone call from the police might not seem like a good way to wake up, but for 30 Lincolnton seniors, it’s how they start their day.
The RUOK — “Are You OK” — program has been used by the Lincolnton Police Department for the past 15 years.
The program is designed to check on the welfare of participating seniors Monday through Friday.
At 7:30 a.m. each day, Lt. Kent Lukach, training and crime prevention officer for the Lincolnton Police Department, picks up the phone and starts calling. And he doesn’t stop until every one of the nearly 30 seniors on his list are accounted for.
“The program is structured to give families a sense of security knowing that the police are checking on their loved ones daily, Monday through Friday,” Lukach said.
If they don’t answer the phone by 8 a.m., an officer will go to the residence to make sure they are alright and not in need of medical assistance, Lukach said.
Lukach also keeps a list of relatives, clergy and medical conditions on each participant in case there are questions.
In the past, a computer automatically dialed the numbers and checked on the seniors. That was nixed, however, when officials decided they wanted the service to be more personal.
“Chief Dean Abernathy felt that removed the human element, and now we personally call so that they can actually speak to a person and not feel they are talking to a machine,” Lukach said.
In addition to the phone calls, participants also get together each year at Christmas to eat lunch and exchange presents.
Lukach said the feedback he gets from the seniors is always positive.
“The participants will thank me over and over for calling,” Lukach said. “Many state they look forward to the call because it is about the only call they get for the day.”
Family members also appreciate the program and sometimes offer compensation for what RUOK does for the participants.
Organizers don’t accept any compensation, but instead are just happy they can provide the service that has been proven to help the elderly.
“We have saved a few lives with the program and really do care about the people we call,” Lukach said.
If you live in the city of Lincolnton and want more information about the program, call Lukach at the Police Department at (704) 736-8900.
by Alice Smith

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