This year, different police stations in the country assisted 12 elderly people lost on public roads. A simple bracelet made it possible to take them back home or to family members, through the I’m Here Adults program, which results from a partnership between PSP and Santa Casa da Misericórdia.
In the right hand or in the left? More or less tight? At the door of an odd number on Rua Diário de Notícias, in Lisbon, the PSP agent Lopes da Silva delicately puts a bracelet on the thin and wrinkled skin wrist of Maria Fernanda, 87 years old and resident in Bairro Alto for 60. ” great “, she guarantees. And the agent continues. “Look, you know what this is for, don’t you?” “I’ve heard of it.” It is better to repeat. “This has a little number here, in which your [family members] contacts will stay, in case you get lost, if you have a problem on the public road, and don’t bring anything with you.” Then, Maria Fernanda shoots her conclusion: “I mean, from now on, I am a protected woman. Good!”. He skips his feet lightly on the building’s doorstep and claps his hands.
Age does not forgive, the popular sayings already warn. Over the years, the number of pathologies and the limitation of autonomy tend to increase. These are not nice accounts for those who have become accustomed to making their living in the city and, one day, find themselves on the verge of not being able to leave the house alone without getting lost along the way. Can a bracelet and a number change the safety of the elderly? That’s the purpose of the national program I’m Here Adults, a partnership between the Public Security Police (PSP) and Santa Casa da Misericórdia.
The initiative proposes to distribute a bracelet, which is assigned an identification number, to a more vulnerable population such as the elderly, who will help passers-by or police officers to help them and identify them if these people are lost on the public road. After the success of the I’m Here Children program, created in 2012, in 2015 PSP launched a pilot project for the older version. “We are talking about all the elderly, but it is more aimed at people who, due to a pathology or old age, may momentarily become unbalanced and lose track of time and space on the public road, without any contact or identification .
Artur Serafim explains that if a citizen or agent reports that a person is lost, he can call the national emergency number, 112, indicate that he has a bracelet under this program and dictate the number inscribed on it, so that the National Directorate of PSP can access this user’s profile and contact people nearby. Therefore, the bracelet does not have an integrated GPS tracking system. It works only as a “tool” of work, a means to cut a path.
About a thousand active bracelets
Elderly people lost in the streets of the city “does not happen daily and thankfully, but it is happening”, warns the PSP spokesman in Lisbon. As an example, he recalls that, this year, there were 12 cases at national level in which it was necessary to “make the connection between people and people’s families”. Reducing the geographical scale for the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, there have been four cases since January. Figures that, in his perspective, justify the extension of the program to more and more people. “What we want is for there to be more adherence and we can thus safeguard the lives of many people.”
At the national level, the distribution of bracelets in the scope of I’m Here Adults has reached thousands since 2016. In all, 1388 bracelets were delivered, of which only 961 are active in the system. And Lisbon represents a large share of this total: there are currently 441 active. According to the PSP, the Campo Grande and Odivelas police stations are the ones that aggregate the largest number of deliveries to date.
The distribution process, explains representative Artur Serafim, “is very simple”. It can be requested by the carrier himself, if he is aware of his condition and feels that he wants to be safer every time he leaves his home. Or even by a caregiver, family member or friend, as well as by an institution that the elderly person is in charge of. To apply, simply fill out a form on the internet or go to a police station, so that PSP agents can help with the process. After an identification number is generated, the bracelet is activated and will be given to the elderly.
With the covid-19 pandemic, the challenges have changed. “We note that there is greater adherence and we welcome this behavior, because it is ideal for us,” says the spokesman. In response to the increased interest on the part of family members and the elderly to join the program, PSP now offers a wider range of police stations where the bracelets can be distributed. So far, this service is not available in all police stations, “because we do not have this capacity in terms of the number of bracelets”, explains Artur Serafim. However, the medium term objective “is that a large slice of the squares in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon have the bracelets”.