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Community groups across the country have shown remarkable creativity in developing outreach events. The following examples serve to demonstrate.
Tips from Mary Twomey, Director, San Francisco Consortium for Elder Abuse Prevention:
- Life Cycles Bike Tour
In Montana, AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) bicycled 370 miles to spread their elder abuse prevention message. The tour was conducted by LifeCycles of Cascade County and the Western Montana Chapter for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.
Cyclists received a send-off by a local television station, conducted two press conferences along the way–one with the mayor of Missoula and the other with the state’s lieutenant governor–and stopped to make presentations to an Elks Club and many other groups along the way. Media coverage of the event included a day-by-day account of their progress by one newspaper.
- Reverse Boiler Rooms
AARP, As part of its campaign against telemarketing fraud, partnered with the FBI, the National Association of Attorney's General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and others to let seniors know that illegal telemarketers might target them. The national organizations turned the criminals' own tactics against them though the nation's first "reverse boiler room."
Boiler room refers to the venue, typically rented offices with banks of phones, which scam artists use to make calls.
In the reverse scenario using “mooch lists,” (lists of persons who had been defrauded in the past), confiscated from fraudulent telemarketers, AARP volunteers, attorneys general and representatives from federal agencies called more than 2,000 vulnerable seniors to warn them.
Communities across the country have replicated AARP's outreach model. In Los Angeles, for example, a reverse boiler room operates on an on-going basis has uncovered scams, which were subsequently reported to the FBI. People on Oregon's boiler room call list who are identified as particularly vulnerable are asked to receive visits from volunteers. Arizona’s Elder Fraud Prevention Team held a reverse boiler room in the locker room of the Arizona Cardinals, during which volunteers made calls to more than 3,000 potential victims. The event was covered by every radio station in Phoenix.
- Fraud Fight at the OK Corral
As part of its Operation Intercept campaign, members of Arizona’s Elder Fraud Prevention Team (EFPT), AARP, local law enforcement and volunteers organized an event in which EFPT members took on the “Fraud Gang” in a mock fight mimicking the legendary showdown at the OK Corral. The nonviolent event educated Arizonans about fraudulent telemarketers and scam artists and attracted significant media attention and civic participation.
- San Francisco Elder Abuse Awareness Month Rally
For four years running, the San Francisco Consortium for Elder Abuse Prevention has sponsored a rally on the steps of City Hall during the city’s “Elder Abuse Awareness Month” observance (designated by county proclamation). Consortium member agencies help arrange transportation for seniors to attend the annual event, which includes speeches by the mayor, district attorney, and other local officials. Each year, the event has a new theme and focus. In 2002, the group distributed badges that said “Ask me how to keep your grandmother safe.” The theme for 2003 was "It's Open Season on the Elderly: Don't Be a Sitting Duck." During the rally, members of Stagebridge, a local seniors theater troop, dramatized abusive situations through monologues.
- Be careful when you translate outreach materials into other languages. Plays on words don’t usually work!
- Sometimes it takes extra effort to meet the media’s needs. They wanted us to have our rally during the noon hour to attract people on their lunch breaks. We wanted seniors to be able to come, so we arranged for box lunches.
- Try to anticipate events that can divert the media’s attention away from yours. We didn’t make it on the evening news this year because they announced that the Giants baseball team won the National League West Pennant. Last year, we inadvertently scheduled the rally on the same day as the kickoff of the NFL season. Some things you can control; others just come up.
Here are some practical tips for media outreach from Michele Findler, MPH, Director of the Elder Abuse Prevention Program, WISE Senior Services:
- Rubber Duck Regatta &mdash Billings, Montana
This annual event, sponsored by the Billings Chapter for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, is a family picnic and fundraiser during which sponsored rubber ducks are put in a lake and swept to shore. In addition to bringing in funds for project activities, the event provides an opportunity for the public to get involved. Community merchants and businesses support the event by offering prizes. One year, a local retirement community produced a cookbook of “tried and true” recipes contributed by residents, staff, and friends.
- Senior Action Fairs: Los Angeles’ Elder Abuse Awareness Campaign
For the last four years, WISE Senior Services of Santa Monica has collaborated with the City of Los Angeles Department of Aging, the County of Los Angeles Area Agency on Aging, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office to sponsor senior fairs, which have drawn upwards of 350 participants.
The County Board of Supervisors helps select the venue for the events, which include speakers, lunch, a raffle and exhibits by local, state and federal organizations. The fairs have addressed a variety of topics related to elder abuse including how to avoid telemarketing, investment, home repair, sweepstakes and Medicare fraud. Topics unrelated to abuse are also covered, including nutrition and exercise, medication management and estate planning. A special event targeting Los Angeles’ large Latino community attracted over 1,000 participants.
The fairs are part of Los Angeles’ Elder Abuse Awareness Campaign, which was launched in 1998. A public relations firm was hired to develop materials, including Stop Senior Abuse brochures, stickers and posters. WISE oversees the campaign, occasionally bringing in professionals to assist with specific projects.
- Get policy makers involved. Members of our board of supervisors have been very helpful, even arranging for transportation from senior centers.
- We’ve found that when we sponsor events toward the end of the week, there seems to be less competition for the media’s attention
- We’ve worked with civic groups, religious institutions, local hospitals, libraries, the Elks, the National Council of Jewish Women and AARP. We’ve found them to be very receptive, and some of these groups have a lot of visibility and connections.
- Explore local resources. We worked with a local senior center that has a facility where they produce PSAs and TV shows with the help of retired camera people, editors and others.
- Get local celebrities to lend their support, and, if possible, make appearances at events.
Last Updated: September 28, 2006
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