ST. TAMMANY - A 77-year-old North shore man continues to improve in the hospital after being lost near his home for two days.
While the incident had a happy ending, it's stirring up prevention conversations in the senior citizen community.
"I walk a lot" said Mary Melancon, "I like to get out and walk in the morning."
That's one of many activities the spry 85-year-old keeps on her daily schedule, but she's quick to admit there have been times she's not been so sure of what's on her plate for the day, or even for the moment.
"I sit down and think about it. I really do," she said, "I say, 'What's going on?' And then focus on what I'm doing."
That's why Melancon and her friends spent their usual weekday lunch get-together at the Council On Aging-St. Tammany Senior Center in Covington talking about 77-year-old Robert Olsen.
Family members say he wandered from in front of his Abita Springs property after noticing flowers he'd never seen before. When he looked up, Olsen told family members he didn't know where he was. He was found two days later, a mile away from his starting point, in need of hospitalization.
"That's why it's good to have somebody with you all the time or know somebody around," said Melancon.
Group gatherings, like ones offered by COAST or faith-based organizations, are recommended ways to keep company for yourself, and a watch over your activities.
Also, if you are a senior who lives alone, St. Tammany Sheriff's Cpl. Eddie Vauthier suggests keeping a cell phone on you at all times, as well as identifiers.
"Have like a name tag is what I would suggest. And that's basically take a piece of paper, write down some pertinent contact information on it that you could reach out to. Go have it laminated at one of the local stores," he said, "And then place a bunch of copies inside your shoes because it's very unlikely you'll leave your house without your shoes."
He also suggests an identifying bracelet or necklace.
As for relatives of older folks, if you notice common tasks taking longer than usual, like a daily walk or a grocery run, pacing in the mornings, or repetitive tasks in the afternoons, it may be time for something more than preventative measures for your loved one, like Memory Care services.
"That's not part of the normal aging process," said Rhonda Vahle with Avanti Senior Living, "There are different types of dementias and there are stages, early to mid-stages. But it's always concerning when someone gets lost doing a familiar task or going a familiar route."
Resources for independent senior citizens, and relatives of independent senior citizens, can be found below:
COAST also hosts weekly and monthly Care Mentoring Support Groups. Tuesday, Sept. 19, a meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Slidell Senior Center on Cousin Street. Tuesday, Sept. 26, a meeting will be held at the Covington Senior Center on Theard St.