For six years, retired Perth accountant Don has had an early morning telephone call from the Red Cross to make sure he has made it out of bed and is on his way.
Living alone and in his 70s, he signed up for the free Red Cross Telecross service after reading too many newspaper reports from around the globe of seniors who had collapsed in their homes after being overcome by illness or disability and were not discovered for days.
"My greatest fear is that I will slip over and end up stuck on the floor," he said.
"As you get older, you are not so sure on your feet and I have a heart condition."
An early riser who likes to start the day at 5am by reading his home-delivered copy of The West Australian, by the time the Red Cross volunteer phones at 7.30am Don is already dressed and ready to head out the door to take his beloved Maltese shihtzu dog, Daisy, for a walk.
"I try and keep the phone calls short because the volunteers usually have a group of people they have to call and I don't want to keep anyone else waiting," he said.
"It is such a beautiful service."
And Don said it had been a comfort to busy relatives and neighbours to know, as they walked out the door to work, that if they had not been alerted by the Red Cross, he was fine and up and enjoying the day.
Operating nationally since 1971 and designed to maintain independence and provide reassurance to those living alone, the Red Cross Telecross service, manned in WA by 205 trained volunteers, sees that 530 West Australians each receive a daily phone call to check on their safety and wellbeing. Eighty per cent of those phoned are women.
If after three calls the telephone is still unanswered, then the Red Cross alerts the person's emergency contact, usually a neighbour or family member.
If that contact can't be reached, then the police are notified.
Nationally last financial year, among the 4600 using the Telecross service, there were 7963 emergency activations and in 87 per cent of cases the subjects were found to be OK.
The service also found 749 people were ill or injured, 247 were away or in hospital and 37 had died. In 94 per cent of cases, it took less than two hours after the first phone call to determine what had happened.
Don, who also relies on a local government service to clean his bathroom and floors, said his business skills and inquiring mind had helped him find services when he needed them.
But he worried other seniors may be unaware of the full range of community support available for those who lived on their own.Those wishing to sign on as a client and use the Telecross service or act as a volunteer should phone 1300 885 698 or email watelecrossadmin @redcross. org.au. The Red Cross is also in great need of volunteers for this service.
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