A citywide, free program aims to assist its homebound residents through phone calls and social visits.
The You Are Not Alone (YANA) program launched in 2015 and has since saved lives, said Mary Witkofski, Maricopa’s community programs manager.
Maricopa Police Department volunteers make weekly phone calls to participants. If contact is not made after three attempts, an emergency contact person is notified.
That’s what happened one Fourth of July two years ago when a woman was not answering a volunteer’s calls.
“The emergency contact, thank goodness, lives down the street,” Witkofski said. “He went (to her house) and actually found his mother laying on the floor.”
Emergency responders transported her to a local hospital where she eventually recovered.
Situations like these, Witkofski said, are reasons YANA is effective; and in cases where an emergency contact person cannot be reached, YANA volunteers will enlist the help of MPD.
In addition to the weekly calls, volunteers connect with participants by making quarterly, planned visits to their homes.
Witkofski said the volunteers socialize, play card games and have conversations with the residents.
Volunteers pass a fingerprint and background clearance and then go through training. MPD volunteers are mandatory reporters to adult protective services and have learned to identify signs of late-life domestic violence, abuse, depression, identity theft and scam.
Vice Mayor Peg Chapados, a senior advocate through Maricopa Seniors Inc., said YANA is a valuable resource for seniors living alone “because it’s a way to ‘stay connected’ and let people know that there is always someone who cares about their well-being.”
Generally, program participants are over 65 and live alone or are alone during the day and have limited mobility.
“(YANA’s purpose) is to maintain their independence, not take it away from them and I think that’s an important piece,” Witkofski said.
Age is not necessarily a qualifying condition, however. Those who have disabilities or are at home recovering from a procedure and are alone during the day are also are eligible for the program.
Qualified, part-time residents are also eligible to enroll while they are living in the city.
The program currently has 19 enrollees and Witkofski would like to see more.
“We definitely have room for growth,” she said.
YANA partners with community and social service agencies like the Maricopa Public Library’s All Access Homebound Delivery, COMET transit, Age-Friendly Committee and the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens to provide additional resources for its participants.
The program came about after the city conducted a human-needs assessment which identified a gap in senior assistance.
Witkofski said participants who are hearing impaired can opt for a weekly text message instead of phone call.
520-316-6800, ext. 1234
This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.