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“Nosy Neighbors” Needed in MI to Save Lives

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January 29, 2009

Lansing, MI – Ask if you can pick up anything at the store, or deliver a plate of cookies. Those are examples for Michiganians so they can get to know their neighbors, especially those who are older.

The advice comes from Karen Kafantaris, AARP Michigan associate state director for community service, in light of the death of a 93-year-old man in Bay City who froze to death in his home when his electricity was shut off because of unpaid bills.

"Be aware of who your neighbors are. Identify those that might be most vulnerable. Reach out to them in times like this when it's really cold, or times when it's really hot."

Kafantaris says there are many ways to get help with utility bills, and there are programs to make sure utilities are not shut off, but the maze can be challenging to navigate, and some might not want to speak up because of pride of self-reliance.

And, even with all the help options in Michigan, Kafantaris says friendly neighbor check-ups are still needed to make sure people don't fall through the cracks.

"Many people don't qualify for those utility programs, aren't aware of them, or aren't cognitively able to discern they need help."

AARP recently launched Operation Energy Save, which calls on Michiganians to help friends, family and neighbors save on household energy expenses so they can better juggle utility bills. Information about that program at www.aarp.org/createthegood. Details on utility help programs are available by dialing 211.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - MI