Rise in demand for personal alarms as eligibility widened
There has been a fourfold surge in demand for senior citizens' personal alarms amid ongoing fears of crime and a widening of the eligibility criteria for the scheme.
The rising numbers making applications under the Seniors Alert Scheme has led the Government to provide an extra €400,000 for the wearable alarms.
Rural Affairs and Community Development Minister Michael Ring urged senior citizens in both urban and rural areas to sign up or for people to register older relatives or neighbours.
"People are worried about crime and this scheme will enable people to feel safer and to be safer in their own homes," he said.
"If someone has an accident at home or feels their safety is under threat, they can activate their personalised alarm and get assistance.
"I don't want people to feel under threat in their own home. I want any person that qualifies for this scheme to have one of these pendants in their home."
The scheme is administered by community organisation Pobal and details are on its website. Users have a base unit device installed in their home that's connected to a national Seniors Alert Scheme helpline through land-line or mobile phones.
If the user activates the alarm, it puts a call through to the 24-hour national call centre. The operator speaks to the person in their home and decides whether to alert a locally based volunteer or in serious circumstances, the emergency services.
Around 60,000 personal alarms have been distributed to people over the age of 65 since 2010.
Mr Ring announced in October that the eligibility criteria was being widened, dropping the living alone condition that had been in place.
More than 2,600 people applied for the alarms last month, more than four times the previous average monthly rate of 600.
While Mr Ring had announced the scheme would be continued with funding of €2.3m, he allocated a further €400,000 to meet demand.
He said the elderly can feel vulnerable in their homes and, as well as encouraging new applications to the Seniors Alert Scheme, he urged people to keep an eye on elderly neighbours, saying Christmas can be a challenging time.