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Style Magazine

Friendly Visitors Program

May 31, 2008 05:00PM ● By Super Admin

All too often elderly men and women find themselves facing a common enemy: loneliness. Whether from an illness, an inability to drive, or distant family and friends, many homebound seniors miss out on the social interactions essential to living a full, vibrant life. Enter the Friendly Visitor Program.

The program began in 1998 and is administered by Senior’s First, a nonprofit corporation specializing in services to seniors and their families. Through community education and their free Speaker’s Bureau, Senior’s First has proven a valuable resource for services sought after by seniors and their loved ones. The Friendly Visitor Program adheres to a straightforward philosophy: if seniors over 60 receive more outside contact, interaction and support, they will live more independently, increase the quality of their lives and thus reduce the need for expensive long-term care. Additionally, the visitor enjoys the benefits of getting to know someone who they might not otherwise have taken the time to, whether through conversation, playing cards or sharing a common hobby.

Coordinator and manager, Betty Powell, who has worked in the program since its inception, knew that this was the job for her. “What I love most is being able to make a really great match between the senior and the volunteer visitor,” she says. “I also love working with all the wonderful volunteers; they are all very special people.” Powell also notes that the program practices ongoing recruitment for volunteers, to meet the high demands for the services provided.

Currently, the program has 75 visitors for 81 seniors. In many ways the volunteers also act as “gatekeepers” to the senior population. Through their weekly visits they are able to monitor the seniors’ health and overall well-being. Just knowing someone will be there to check in on a regular basis gives seniors the peace-of-mind that they are being cared for, not to mention a helping hand to those who care for them.

Getting involved with the Friendly Visitor Program is a fairly easy process. Those interested in volunteering are asked to inquire with Senior’s First and fill out an application. Getting to know more about the volunteer helps the staff find a senior that is not only geographically accessible, but one they may share a common interest with. Once applications are processed, the volunteers are invited to a three-hour orientation, which addresses what is required of them during their valuable time spent with the program. The training program also includes tips on communication skills, validation and potential activities, in addition to important information on health issues, dementia, loss and grief issues. Finally, the volunteer is matched with a senior in his or her area, and before long, they’re face to face with a new friend.

For more information, please call Betty Powell at 530-889-9500. Only one hour, once a week could make a huge difference in the life of a senior. Chances are, it will make a tremendous impact on your life as well. •