Walter Mencken 4 p.m., May 3
New implanted chip would aid in identification of dotty, daffy, or merely dizzy Olds
"Permanent identification of people! Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?"
A bill working its way through the California legislature would require that all seniors afflicted with dementia and not living in an institutional environment be implanted with identification microchips. In San Diego County, this practice has been in place for some time and has recently reunited families with doddering relatives lost for months at a time.
Dan DeSousa, with the county’s Department of Senior Services, said, “Every confused and forgetful old-timer, as soon as he or she is found wandering the streets in pajamas at three in the morning, gets scanned for a microchip. If every senior had a microchip, we’d be calling the responsible caretaker right then and there.”
“Whether or not the use of the chip could save the county money on operational costs, it can definitely cut time from the poor old guy's stay at the police station,” DeSousa said. “Our goal is, if you get a microchip that means we can get that loopy oldster home to you right away.”
More than 26,000 disoriented grandparents were admitted into San Diego County Shelters last year.
According to last year’s figures, 35 percent of lost uncles taken to county shelters were reunited with their nephews and nieces. A more widespread use of the microchip could improve the chances a lost relative makes its way back home.
Recently, a great-grandmother missing for 18 months from her Oceanside family was found in San Marcos. The person who found the woman took her to a county homeless shelter where she was scanned for the chip and reunited with her family.
San Diego County shelters offer chip implants for $20 on Thursdays.
"The amazing thing is, we started this initiatives with dogs," marveled DeSousa. "You know, for lost pets. But while pets are precious, people are even more precious. It just made good sense. If we get good response on the senior initiative, we see children as a natural next step. We even have plans to install radio transmitters onto the chips, so that no one need ever be lost again. We'll be able to track lost kids via satellite, and even send them directions home. And if someone wants to pay us to beam in a suggestion that they stop at a 7-11 on the way and pick up an ice-cold Coca-Cola to refresh them on their long journey - well, so much the better."