BELMONT — Marie Tallmadge has thought at times what would happen if she fell at home and could not get up.
Living alone, being 79 years old, and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, she has a right to be anxious.
But last month one of Tallmadge’s neighbors told her about a new program launched by the Belmont Police Department to provide an extra bit of peace of mind for older residents living alone.
Two weeks ago Tallmadge signed up for the Good Morning Belmont Program.
Now, every morning between 8 and 10, Tallmadge calls the Belmont police station and tells the dispatcher that she is all right. If the dispatcher hasn’t heard from her by 10, the dispatcher calls her, and if there is no answer a patrol officer would be dispatched to Tallmadge’s home.
“I feel a lot safer,” said Tallmadge, sitting in the living room of her house at Great Brook Village, a 55-plus community.
Belmont police launched the program shortly after April 1. So far seven seven people have signed up. The department is working to spread the word about the program in an effort to get more participants.
The 365-day program is for older residents who live alone, police Capt. Rich Mann explained. It is similar to programs offered by other police departments, including Gilford and Alton.
“It’s the only direct contact some of these people have with the police,” Sgt. Evan Boulanger, who coordinates the program said, noted.
“We get to know people in town that we might otherwise wouldn’t,” Mann added.
Any eligible resident can sign up for the free program by calling the department at 603-267-8350. Boulanger will then go to the person’s home to explain how the program works, and have the applicant sign any necessary paperwork.
Applications have been dropped off at the Belmont Senior Center, and the local American Legion Post 58 is helping to get information about the program out to its members.
Sometimes participants fail to call in during the 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. window.
Tallmadge said she forgot once.
“My brain went into Saturday mode,” she explained, noting she had called religiously on previous weekdays.
Mann stressed that the program is in effect every day of the year. “Even Christmas,” he said.
Those times that officers have had to go out to someone’s home it has been because the person had left the house for whatever reason and did not call the police station before leaving.
Mann noted the service is especially valuable for older residents who do not have family close by who can look after them.
“I don’t have cousins and the like to fall back on,” said Tallmadge, who moved into Great Brook Village almost nine years ago after the death of her husband. Her only close family — a daughter — lives in Australia, she said.
“Family who live out of state love this program,” said Mann.
He pointed out there have been occasions in the past when the department has received a call from an out-of-state family member, saying they have been unable to reach a loved one on the telephone for three or four days, and when the officer goes to that person’s residence to do a well-being check, they find that person dead.
Mann and Boulanger said officers would much rather go to someone’s house because they left the house without calling in — so-called false alarms — rather go to a house after it is too late.
Tallmadge said for her the daily call to the police dispatcher is a real morale-booster.
“I look forward to that call,” she said. “After I hang up I feel better. I know that I’m feeling all right.”