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Maryland Launches First-in-Nation Wellness Calls for Seniors

Annapolis, MD - February 3, 2020 - Maryland is the first state in the country with a program that offers daily wellness checks by phone for older residents. Since most people say they want to "age in place" in their own homes, Senior Call Check provides a phone call to Marylanders age 65 and older each day at a designated time.

State Delegate Ben Kramer, who sponsored the initiative, said if folks don't answer the phone after three attempts, a designated contact person or local law enforcement will be called to come to their homes.

"Very often, our senior residents don't have someone who checks in on them routinely," Kramer said. "So, the goal here is to give them a little peace of mind, so that we can try and help our seniors age in place and that, if they can't get to the phone, there will be a follow-up."

After a successful pilot program in 2018, Senior Call Check just became available statewide last month. The program is free for Maryland residents and is run by the Department of Aging.

More information is available at 1-866-50-CHECK or online at aging.maryland.gov.

Senior Call Check arrives before a Dignity in Aging Act pending in Congress. That bill aims to steer federal funds toward multiple programs that help adults live independently as they age.

But Kramer said he wants faster action to help Maryland's growing older population. He noted the Maryland program is free, because many seniors already have to make tough choices about food and medication.

And he said the call check will also eventually include a notification system to share information about senior scams and potential bad weather.

"So, this could give a notice that, 'Hey we want to give you the heads up, this impending storm is coming. You may want to make sure, if you're stuck in your home, that you've got enough food for several days, or your medications are filled to cover you for several days,'" he said.

Three in 4 Americans age 50 and older say they want to stay in their homes as they age, according to an AARP study. However, only about 60% anticipate they will be able to do so.

-Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD

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