The 2000 U.S. Census reported that 14 million Americans over age 65 had either a mental, physical, sensory, self-care or mobility disability. As for Stone Harbor, New Jersey, U.S. Postal Service Letter Carrier Robert DeMarco has done his absolute best looking out for the large number of elderly people with disabilities on his mail route.
‘I’ve had the same mail route for 16 years,’ said DeMarco in a telephone interview. ‘There was one particular woman in her 80s, and during all the time I’d been delivering mail she had been picking it up religiously (from her mailbox). Then one day I realized that she hadn’t picked it up for three days, and I wasn’t sure what was happening.’
After finishing his route that day, DeMarco went looking for a police officer. Soon he learned the woman had fallen down in her home and was on the floor laying in a bit of blood. The police officer arranged for an ambulance to speed her to a hospital, where she was given immediate care.
‘I have no idea why she fell, but she was frail,’ said DeMarco. ‘Once she left the hospital, they put her in rehabilitation. She was a sweet lady who never forgot me on Valentine’s Day. She would always have a sandwich bag waiting for me with Hershey’s Kisses inside.’
Three years earlier, DeMarco and another police officer had helped the very same woman into her home after she had been accidentally locked out.
DeMarco said, ‘In this town a lot of older people don’t have family nearby. A lot of them have live-in nurses. I’ve been doing the route so many years and I pick up on little things. For instance, I might see three day’s worth of newspapers on the step and know something isn’t right.’
He said his town also was close-knit, a place where he felt like part of a big family. On occasion, he has helped elderly people on his mail route unload groceries from their cars.
‘It doesn’t cost you a penny to be nice,’ he said. ‘We have such a small post office here. In a way, we don’t feel like we’re working for the Postal Service; it’s more like we’re working for (an old-fashioned) corner store. Anyone in our office would have done the same thing I did to help the elderly woman.’