Catholic Social Services (CSS) and Connections Volunteer Center, a program of HelpLine, partnered to coordinate the Senior Companion Program (SCP). The program, funded in part by SourcePoint, helps reduce the loneliness and isolation of older adults by providing friendship, socialization and help with errands through weekly home visits. The visits help older adults continue to live independently and provide a connection to the community which is essential for mental health and well-being.
Senior companions visit older adult clients two to three hours each week and engage in activities such as grocery shopping, personal errands, playing games, visiting the enrichment center at SourcePoint, going for a walk or just talking. The activities vary based on the client’s interests, abilities and needs.
The program was developed over 50 years ago as a federal program to help low-income older adults stay active in the community by providing a tax-free stipend for their time and mileage. Serving as a senior companion is just as beneficial to the volunteers as it is for the clients they serve. Many of the senior companion volunteers, like their clients, were experiencing loneliness, isolation, and the desire to find a purpose in their day-to-day life prior to coming to the program.
Many senior companions have visited their clients for several years, naturally developing long-lasting friendships. Zelda McDaniel and Jean Gilcrest enjoy spending time singing songs and playing the piano. They also color in adult coloring books together, sit outside in the fresh air, and keep their conversations interesting by using conversation cards.
Suzanne Pingry, program director at Connections Volunteer Center said, “This program is about connecting people – it facilitates interaction for older adults that may otherwise be completely isolated from others and gives volunteers the opportunity to make a difference.”
Tony Parks, director of the Senior Companion Program for Catholic Social Services added, “I have seen first hand the difference companionship can bring to someone – especially during these past couple years of the pandemic.”
The SCP is currently recruiting volunteers who enjoy helping others, want to be active, have the desire to make a difference in the community and need additional income. To become a senior companion, you must be age 55 and older and complete a pre-screening and background check. To participate as a client, the program is free and open to eligible adults ages 60 and older, regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion.
Volunteer training will be offered this summer through Catholic Social Services in Delaware County. Individuals interested in learning more about training or becoming an SCP volunteer can visit ConnectionsVolunteerCenter.org; contact Suzanne Pingry at [email protected] or 740-363-5000; or contact Catholic Social Services at colscss.org or 614-857-1211.