AURORA, Colo. — Baby boomers are getting older, and in Colorado, the senior population is growing rapidly. By 2050, seniors will nearly double in population to 2 million, according to the Colorado State Demography Office.
To help make sure the elderly are not forgotten, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office launched a new program in January to help keep tabs on seniors living alone. It’s called the Senior Check-in Program. Once a week, volunteers will call seniors living alone that are 60 years and older to make sure they are doing okay and know someone cares.
Iris Salladay, 72, and Lea Harms, a dispatcher for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, kick-started the pilot program four years ago.
Salladay says the program gives her freedom and a peace of mind. She lives alone on 20 acres of land, and her nearest neighbor is 660 feet away. Her husband, Ed, passed away more than seven years ago. Salladay’s only living relative lives in Nashville.
“It was just fate Iris was assigned to me as a dispatcher,” Harms said.
Over the last four years, their friendship has flourished, building a line of trust. Once a week, Harms calls Salladay, and they chat for 30 minutes about life.
“I would tell her things that I wouldn’t tell somebody else,” Salladay said.
They even visit one another and occasionally grab lunch together.
Harms has worked as a dispatcher for seven years. She says she saw a need for the program as she fielded calls.
“That first call when somebody went to check on them, and they passed away, that’s when you realize that there’s a need for this in the senior community,” Harms said.
Salladay vividly recalled a health scare.
“I thought, 'Oh great, I’m going to have a heart attack here and die here sitting in the chair,'” Salladay said. Luckily, she was able to call 9-1-1.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office is looking for volunteers to call seniors and regularly check in on them. Volunteers will go through a rigorous background check. To apply, click here.
To qualify for the program, seniors must be 60 years or older, live alone, and in the following locations: Centennial, Foxfield, Bennett, Deer Trail in eastern Arapahoe County, or unincorporated Arapahoe County.
To apply, click here or call (303) 795-471.