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In the Know column: TRIAD helps seniors avoid scams

The program was designed to be a partnership between law enforcement, local senior services and members of the local senior population.

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Sheriff Troy Wolbersen
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Douglas County is home to many people that are over the age of 65. According to the U.S. Census, 23.4% of our population is over 65.

Many people choose to continue living here after retiring, and many people move here to enjoy their retirement. Our community has a lot to offer with our beautiful lakes, and the community has a lot of services and businesses that are helpful for people as they age.

Local law enforcement is one of the many services that provide assistance for our senior population. Several years ago, Sheriff Bill Ingebrigtsen and Chief Chuck Nettestad wanted to enhance the relationship between local law enforcement and our senior population. During that time, the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the American Association of Retired People (AARP) had collaborated and in 1988 designed a program called TRIAD.

The primary purpose of TRIAD was to keep older adults safe from crime by educating and providing an awareness about things such as scams and fraud. According to AARP, we earn the title of “senior” when we reach the age of 50. The program was designed to be a partnership between law enforcement, local senior services and members of the local senior population.

Sheriff Ingebrigtsen and Chief Nettestad, along with Kathryn LeBrasseur, decided that a local TRIAD group would be helpful and moved forward with forming it.

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Shortly after I became chief deputy, Sheriff Ingebrigtsen asked me if I would be his representative for the local TRIAD group. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it has been a great experience from the start. I met with Mary Krueger who was the senior coordinator at that time for Douglas County Social Services (DCSS), Kathy Fischer from St. Mary’s, and Kathryn LeBrasseur along with other local seniors.

Our group would go out to local senior centers and do presentations on scams and fraud. From these presentations, we learned that seniors had interest in many other topics and also that we wanted to be able to reach larger numbers of seniors without interrupting their lunch and social time at the senior centers.

Through discussions at our TRIAD meetings, we came up with the idea of having a Senior Expo. The idea was we would bring local seniors together and have presentations on a variety of topics, have local service provider booths and we would provide lunch. We just had our 20th Senior Expo two weeks ago!

We have tried and done different things each year to stay relevant to what seniors want and need. Local service providers have time to talk with seniors before the Expo begins and during breaks. St. Mary’s Church has been a great host location for the Expo. Kathy Fischer and other St. Mary’s staff have made sure that people attending have a good experience. We have been able to pay for the Expos with the funding provided by local sponsors and vendors.

Due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to do an in-person event in 2020, but KOOL-TV helped us make a video Expo in 2021. We have received grants from REA in some years to help with funding as well.

The Senior Expos have given us an opportunity to educate our seniors, and as importantly, given us an opportunity to interact with seniors. At lunch time, Douglas County deputies, Alexandria police officers and staff from both offices serve the meals to our attendees. Alexandria Police Chief Scott Kent and I welcomed everyone for this year’s Expo, visited during breaks and had fun handing out door prizes at the end of the day.

Our TRIAD committee this year consisted of Senior Coordinator Dinara Dykema and Karen Bryant of DCSS, Julie Anderson (Douglas County), Officer Darcie Zirbes (APD), Kathy Fischer (St. Mary’s), Helen Johnsrud and Kathryn LeBrasseur. Some of the committee members have been part of the TRIAD committee long enough that they also represent the senior population!

Yes, I am one of those people. Joyce McIntosh was a past senior coordinator who contributed to Expos as well. Our goal with TRIAD is to continue enhancing the lives of our senior population. We will start planning for 2023’s Senior Expo in the months ahead. If anyone is interested in being a part of TRIAD or has ideas for future Expos, please contact Senior Coordinator Dinara Dykema at Douglas County Social Services.

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Troy Wolbersen is the Douglas County sheriff. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen discusses personal awareness safety during the annual Senior Expo at St. Mary’s Church. (Beth Leipholtz | Echo Press)
During a past Senior Expo, Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen discusses personal awareness safety at St. Mary’s Church.
Echo Press file photo

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