Seniors: Getting emergency help at home

Seniors: Getting emergency help at home
(Photo/Aging in Place)

By Pamela Austin

Most people want to live independently in their home as long as possible. But as people age, they may experience limited mobility and increased falls, which can compromise their ability to live independently.

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall, according to the National Council on Aging. In addition, falls are the leading cause of injuries for older Americans.

The City of Alexandria’s Division of Aging and Adult Services offers a system that allows older and disabled residents to get help in an emergency. This system provides peace of mind for older adults and increases their ability to remain at home.

The Personal Emergency Response System allows a person to call for help in an emergency. PERS is a small button worn as a necklace or wrist band that transmits a signal through a landline or cellular phone to an emergency care center. The alert button is lightweight, waterproof and can be worn 24 hours a day.

When someone presses a medical alert button, a care center representative provides immediate assistance by asking if the caller is OK through a two-way speaker. Emergency services are alerted if there is no response. The caller may also request to call a friend or family member. The care center representative will quickly activate the help needed.

The City of Alexandria provides this service to residents who are age 60 or older, and residents with a disability ages 18 through 59. Residents within a certain income bracket can receive the unit at no cost.

To request a PERS assessment or to learn more information about how to prevent falls and other programs that assist an older adult or person with a disability, call the Division of Aging and Adults Services at 703-746- 5999 or go to

The writer is aging and disability resource coordinator for the Division of Aging and Adult Services in the city’s Department of Community and Human Services.