Broward County’s 211 service reassures seniors as part of free wellness program

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida agency is stepping up its efforts to help some of the most vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic, and it hopes to reach seniors who need help while living alone under quarantine.

Although 211 Broward has been around for 20 years, the crisis has more seniors reaching out to them for help.

“In the last 24 hours, we’ve had about 10 signups, and we hope to continue to do more,” 211 Broward spokesperson Tracy Schuldiner said.

For seniors, being stuck at home at this time can be lonely, sometimes dangerous. However, a simple phone call can make a world of difference. The county agency offers several resources for residents, including a free wellness program called Senior Touchline.

“We dial registered seniors 60 and over who are living alone for a daily reassurance call,” Shuldiner said.

For 70-year-old Bari Laakman, just knowing someone is there for her allows her to be more independent and not live in fear.

“It’s a friendly voice on the other end, and it’s just nice,” she said. “It’s a nice way to start the day.”

Each day, seniors can get a phone call from a Touchline volunteer who checks up on them to make sure they’re doing well both physically and mentally.

“It’s our goal to make sure they’re doing OK, everything is good, but if they have a need, as some of them have been expressing some needs, we try to help them,” Shuldiner said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volunteers have seen an increase from seniors signing up and those needing more than just a friendly word.

“If we felt as though something else was going on, we would ask them,” Shuldiner said. “Do we have permission to dial 911? Can we connect them with a helpline counselor?”

If seniors need additional help, they are connected to a professionally-trained helpline counselor, who is available 24 hours a day.

“Having something regular happening everyday and knowing they’re there and reliable, and it’s just been a phenomenal service that they do for us,” Laakman said. “Of course, now with the coronavirus, they’re making sure that, ‘Do you have everything you need in the house? Make sure if you need anything, you call us.'”

Broward 211’s Senior Touchline service is for people over 60 and is free to join.

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