Increased Gun Violence Impacts Indy Seniors

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For more than a decade, CICOA has set aside one morning a year to gather an army of volunteers to make homes safer for seniors. Called Safe at Home, the event annually brings together more than 120 volunteers to make homes safer for 20 senior homeowners.

We’ve installed hundreds of grab bars, wheelchair ramps and handrails. We’ve cleaned yards, removed debris and more. We’ll do all that again Sept. 11 in the Garfield Park neighborhood in partnership with presenting sponsor George’s Pharmacy & Medical Equipment.

What does “Safe at Home” mean for seniors?

Gearing up for this year’s event, though, has caused me to consider what more being “safe at home” entails. On the surface, we think of the obvious things, such as eliminating tripping hazards, securing railings on porches, and installing better lighting.

September is National Fall Prevention Awareness Month. The reason there’s an entire month dedicated to fall prevention is that one in four people aged 65 and older will fall at least once this year. That leads to increased hospitalizations at an average cost of $30,000 per incident, not including the cost of rehabilitation or ongoing therapy.

But being safe at home also means helping people feel safe in their community. Lately, that sense of safety has taken a tumble of its own.

Gun violence in Indianapolis affects seniors in the community

Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1, Indianapolis reported 160 homicides, most of those involving a gun, according to a recent article in the Indianapolis Star. There have been more than 450 non-fatal shooting victims already this year, making this a record year of violence in our city.

Gun violence affects everyone. It shatters lives and erodes neighborhoods. But older adults may be impacted more than other groups.

Gun violence causes seniors who once felt safe sitting on their front porches to isolate themselves inside. It causes them to think twice about taking a walk around the neighborhood, planting flowers in their yards, or going out with friends after dark. Long-term exposure to stress weakens social ties, reduces physical activity, weakens cognitive function, and increases health vulnerabilities.

Making Indianapolis neighborhoods safer from gun violence takes a bigger effort than CICOA’s single day Safe at Home event or even a national awareness month. I don’t know the complete answer, but I know we’ve got to come together as a community to create better interventions.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett just announced an anti-violence plan to invest $166.5 million in law enforcement, community-led programming and “root cause” services such as mental health care, hunger relief and workforce development. It also includes violence intervention and a peacemaker program.

While the budget makes its way through various council committees, I urge the City-County Council to adopt this plan. We also need neighborhood advocates and watchdogs. We need our faith leaders involved. We need people to step up and report crime. We all play a role in making our neighborhoods safer.

Seniors have built these neighborhoods, and in many ways, they are the glue that keeps them together through volunteerism. They deserve to be able to sit on their porches in peace or walk around the block and talk to neighbors without fear. Let’s collaborate and do something to make Indianapolis safer for everyone, so we can all be safe at home.

Be there for the seniors in your Central Indiana community. Donate now to help make seniors feel safe at home.

CICOA President and CEO Tauhric Brown
Tauhric Brown

As President and CEO, Tauhric Brown uses his strategic vision and experience in the elderly and disability service industry to expand CICOA services and collaborative partnerships to better meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we serve. Before joining CICOA, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Senior Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. His career started in the U.S. Army, and then he became a successful owner/operator for a multi-carrier wireless retail company. Inspired by his family and upbringing, he made the switch to the nonprofit world to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of others.

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