The number of people enrolled in a Changhua County Government program to reduce the risk of older people getting lost has expanded to 750, a fivefold increase from 150 in the previous year, the county’s Department of Social Affairs said on Saturday.
The surge in enrollments came after officials relaxed eligibility requirements and introduced QR code-bearing cloth tabs as a less obtrusive alternative to radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, the department said.
The county has been trying to find a technical solution to reduce the number of wandering seniors since 2011, when then-county commissioner Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) introduced bracelets that bore the name, address and contact information of the wearer.
Photo copied by Chang Tsung-chiu, Taipei Times
Under former county commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) of the Democratic Progressive Party, the county in 2018 introduced RFID devices that provide location tracking and electronic cash functions in a bid to boost usage rates.
Although the gadget won the 2018 National Golden Pin Design Award, its utilization rate among elderly people proved disappointing.
During last year’s budget review, a bipartisan panel of county councilors urged County Commissioner Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) of the KMT to improve the program.
After conducting reviews, officials determined that many older people felt the RFID devices stigmatized their age, while others simply forgot to put them on before leaving home, the department said.
In response, the department began using tabs made from waterproof fabrics that can be sewn into clothing, which embed a QR code, through which a person can be identified, it said.
Meanwhile, a rule that barred elderly residents without a medical diagnosis for dementia from participating in the program was scrapped, the department said, adding that people on the autism spectrum or those with intellectual impediments can also use the program’s devices and services.
The changes have boosted enrollment in the program, while about 6,500 people have downloaded the program’s app, the department said.
While members of the public have asked that the program be combined with the county government’s elderly public transport cards, the department said that the program is focused on addressing wandering senior citizens and there is no perceived need to integrate these platforms.
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