Princeton official suggests buddy program to keep neighbors in touch

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A Princeton official is looking to start a volunteer buddy program where members of the community would check up on their elderly neighbors during emergencies.

Councilman David Cohen said the reach of the program is also intended to assist vulnerable members of the town, such as handicapped individuals.

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Officials plan to hold an information session on Oct. 27 at 9 a.m. in the community room of the Princeton Public Library, for residents interested in signing up.

One facet of the session will be to show how people can build relationships with their neighbors ahead of time so there is a trust level when a major storm or other emergency occurs.

Cohen said there is an “expectation that volunteers will have some kind of regular contact with their buddies, not just in the event of an emergency … I think one of the key takeaways from the program is that you can’t just show up on somebody’s doorstep when the lights are out and knock and say, ‘I’m your buddy, can I help you?’ ”

He said officials would prefer that volunteers live within walking distance of the people they plan to check on, given that a storm that fells trees or causes flooding would make it hard to travel to another section of Princeton. He called distance “a real consideration.”

He said the buddy program accomplishes everything from growing community and neighborhood connection to making Princeton a friendly place for senior citizens to live in.

The volunteer program will help supplement first-responders who find themselves overwhelmed responding to calls for help in emergencies and are too busy in those cases to go door to door checking on people.

“They are aware there are vulnerable folks in the community who it would be great if they were checked up on, because they might have difficulty calling for help or they might not be able to find their phone,” Cohen said.

Nearly 15 percent of Princeton’s population of 31,822 was 65 and older, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate for 2017.

Susan W. Hoskins, executive director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center, said on Oct. 19 that she thinks the buddy program can work.

“I don’t think it will be blanket coverage for the community, but I think any neighborhood that starts it is going to benefit from it,” she said.

Municipal officials will offer training on an optional basis to buddies who want more information about first aid basics and how to respond in different emergencies, such as a major storm or something more serious.

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