With the current physical distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines in effect, just about anyone can be left feeling lonely. However, seniors have a resource to help them connect with others so they feel less alone. A special program from Senior Friendship Centers allows them to hear a reassuring voice when they need it.
The Telephone Reassurance Program from Senior Friendship Centers is available year-round, but there’s been an uptick in its use since the outbreak of the coronavirus, says Crystal Rothhaar, communications director at Senior Friendship Center. The program connects homebound seniors with volunteers who will provide daily or weekly check-in calls. The same person calls each time so the person calling and the person receiving the call form a special bond. “It gives them a social connection,” Rothhaar says.
Some of the connections made through the program have lasted as long as 15 years. Although the program focuses on social connections and combating loneliness, volunteers sometimes find out about other needs their senior may have. For instance, a volunteer may find out the senior they are calling doesn’t get regular nutritious meals. This is something that Senior Friendship Centers can help remedy.
Right now, the program has home-bound seniors who are home not only due to medical conditions or mobility issues but also because they are afraid to go out to the store due to COVID-19 risk, Rothhaar says.
Most of the volunteers with the telephone program also are seniors, some of whom are also homebound, Rothhaar says. “People want to feel that they have a purpose. The program is just as beneficial for the volunteers,” she explains. Those interested in volunteering with the program will receive training. They also must undergo a background check.
The telephone reassurance program is just one part of the work done by the Senior Friendship Center, Rothhaar says. Here are some highlights of the many programs it offers:
- Adult day care services, including for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
- In-person activities and exercise for seniors, including dances, yoga, Zumba, cardio drumming, and card games
- Dining (the center serves 275,000 meals annually through its dining center)
- Free legal help, including tax preparation
- And much, much more.
The Senior Friendship Centers has locations in Sarasota, Venice; and Lee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties. Right now, its programs and services are suspended until May 10th to help stop the transmission of COVID-19. However, seniors in need of meals or supplies can still call them for help. There also is a supply drive right now for basic essentials such as pet food, cat food, diabetic socks, toilet paper, etc.
If you’d like to volunteer with the telephone program or in another capacity with Senior Friendship Centers, call 941-556-3208.
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