Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Expo aims to protect the elderly

By Karen Samples
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Rosella Franklin knows what to do with sweepstakes offers.

        “I got one the other day, and I tore it right up,” the 80-year-old West End resident said. “That's a rip-off.”

        “Thank you,” said Cincinnati Police Officer Princess Davis when she heard Ms. Franklin's solution. Officer Davis' duties include crime prevention in Ms. Franklin's neighborhood, and this Fri day, the officer will aim her message at senior citizens.

        From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Cincinnati Police Division and state Attorney General's Office will hold a Seniors Against Fraud Expo at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, 525 Elm St. Sessions will cover self-defense, citizens' rights concerning telemarketing calls and tactics seniors can use to protect against fraud.

        The free event is open to the public.

        Senior citizens are vulner able in part because they're trusting, Officer Davis said.

        “The elderly people, a lot of times when people call them, they won't hang up,” she said. “They were taught to respect anybody and everybody. They'll listen to them, they'll go to the bank and withdraw the money and send it where they want it sent.”

        In the case of physical confrontation, Officer Davis suggests that seniors “use their canes and try to hit them between the legs. Or take your hat pin out and stab them if you have to.”

        This month, Officer Davis visited St. Peter in Chains Cathedral to promote the Expo to seniors who volunteer with the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion program. The nonprofit organization, under the umbrella of Catholic Social Services, sends volunteers to visit with the elderly and with needy schoolchildren.

        The volunteers — most of them senior citizens like Ms. Franklin — are themselves a form of crime prevention for the elderly. People who receive regular visits from a volunteer are less likely to be lonely, and therefore, less likely to be victimized by strangers.

        “Some people are just so lonely they'll accept any kind of company,” said volunteer Ward Hatton, who visits seniors at the VA Medical Center.

        “It's something you have to keep reinforcing, not opening your door to anyone,” says Arma Penland, another volunteer.

        Residents should confirm the identification of anyone who appears at their door, Officer Davis said. Even utility employees should be asked to hold their badges up to the window and provide a phone number so the resident can call their headquarters, she said.

        For more information about the Expo, call Sgt. Sylvia Ranaghan at 352-6976.


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