This fall, 1,000 Florida teen-agers will leave informational fliers at the homes of Gulf Coast seniors in an effort to stem fears about the Y2K bug. In Santa Cruz, Calif., teens are warning retired residents about potential millennial scams and hope to visit their East Coast peers for tips on neighborhood organizing.
Members of the Manateen Club, a program of Volunteer Services of Manatee County in Bradenton, Fla., plan on posting emergency information along with their own names and phone numbers on the doors of elderly residents who live alone. They?ll encourage seniors to call them, or their parents, if they experience any problem or glitch in essential services at the turn of the century.
Manateen volunteers identified seniors living alone with the help of county government and Meals on Wheels. They chose to post information, rather than knocking on doors, to avoid scaring older citizens, who may be reticent to talk to strangers. To ensure their own safety, the young volunteers will be accompanied by family members and the local sheriff?s department.
In addition to giving seniors a level of comfort with the Y2K bug, the teens hope to encourage long-term relationships between neighbors. They also will refer people with a need for household repairs to the volunteer center that offers help with new door locks and safety rails in bathtubs.
The elderly population in Bradenton is large and their need for Y2K information and help around the house critical, says Adraine LaRoza, executive director of the volunteer agency. Many first came as winter residents and ended up staying after the death of a spouse, she said. Far from family members and increasingly frail, many are unable to make repairs and end up living in deplorable conditions.
In addition to providing assistance should electricity, water or food supplies be interrupted at the turn of the century, the teens and their families have agreed to help with the long-term needs of any senior in need by providing transportation, help in paying bills and companionship.
The Y2K bug, shorthand for a shortcut programmers took years ago that may result in computers mistaking the numbers 2000 for 1900, is a particularly scary notion for this group, which isn?t well versed in new technology and whose members are easy marks for hucksters, LaRoza said.
Hoping to spread the program to other cities, Manateen members plan on visiting members of the Youth Coalition of Santa Cruz in California in the fall.
Teens there are busy spreading the word about Y2K to the numerous retirees who settle in the northern California community, said Karen Jeffries, director of public relations for the Volunteer Centers of Santa Cruz County.
'Part of what will happen is that the Manateens will share ideas of what they?re doing on Y2K and our teens will go back there,' she said.
Like the Manateens, the Santa Cruz group is completely youth driven and has been talking to seniors about not falling prey to hucksters looking to make a fast
dollar by scaring them unnecessarily.
Contacts: Adraine LaRoza, executive director, Volunteer Services of Manatee County, Bradenton, Fla., 941-746-7117. Karen Jeffries, director of public relations, Volunteer Centers of Santa Cruz County,
Santa Cruz, Calif., 831-427-5070.
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