Teens Pledge Y2K Help to Elderly

Teen-agers are stepping up to the Y2K challenge by providing
emergency information and a promise of assistance to elderly and
more vulnerable citizens in communities from coast to coast.

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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