According to the United States Census Bureau, the median age in Southold Town is nearly 12 years older than the national average. Nearly a quarter of its 22,000 residents are senior citizens - a rising demographic in town - far above the 13 percent average seen across the country.
While Dr. Robert Costanzo's stay-at-home care organization doesn't target everyone over the age of 65 - indeed, seniors are healthier than ever thanks to improvements in modern medicine - those living at home alone, who may need assistance in the case of an emergency, is one Be Safe at Home has targeted for the past decade.
The Cutchogue non-profit offers varied services oriented to seniors, such as routine home maintenance and emergency repairs, medication reminders and an emergency alert system.
Pointing to just one fraction of those who use Be Safe at Home, Costanzo said recently that as Baby Boomers come of age — the median age has risen from 35.2 to 37.2 in the past decade — more individuals, particularly those living alone on a fixed income, could benefit from affordable, at-home services.
“In the 2000 Census, there were 76,000 women identified that were over 74 years of age living on just $9,000 per year," he said. “In the 2010 census, there was a 30 percent increase in the number of women over 74 living on just $9,000 per year.”
One such user of the services provided by Be Safe at Home is Emma, who prefers to keep her last name and town private. She makes use of the emergency alert service — even on accident — saying “I activated the emergency button accidently and they were on the phone with my daugher and I in no time.”
Even though she has never had to use the service in a real emergency, she said she would be “very confident” if she had to.
Costanzo, now a Hampton Bays resident, had lived in Mattituck for 20 years and became involved with Be Safe at Home in 2002. He said he’s worked closely with local charity group the Dominican Sisters and receives several private donations in order to subsidize his services for the elderly.
“The problem I’m seeing is that so many seniors have such low income and cannot afford this without help,” Costanzo said.
Costanzo also heads up a non-denominational ministry out of the in on Sound Avenue in Riverhead, which also helps raise funds for Be Safe at Home. He and his partner, Ed Lesnikowski, are working on Facebook marketing, and Lesnikowski is pitching partnerships with the and Riverhead to reach out to more local seniors.
“We’re also working with the to give bottles of wine to those who donate to us,” Costanzo added. “It’s exciting to have these new ventures to help low-income seniors.”
Joseph Pinciaro contributed reporting to this story.