By Christine Loewe
We are basking in the love and kindness displayed by our community in February.
Staff, volunteers, and community partners distributed hundreds of handmade Valentine’s to local seniors living alone or in care facilities. Started as a project on Martin Luther King Day 2021, community members designed and dropped off cards to our office throughout January and early February in prep for Valentine’s Day delivery.
From the scribbles of our littlest kiddos to beautiful artistic creations designed by Kaiser Permanente employees, we loved seeing the thought and care that went into each of the
cards dropped into our delivery bins!
We are nearly a year into pandemic life and while it has been challenging for so many, it has been especially difficult for seniors living alone. From our daily interactions with local seniors, we know that every reach out creates a greater sense of hope and is so invaluable.
The prolonged social isolation and decline in non-essential services to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have created unique challenges for older adults. Many seniors have found themselves not only cut off from social time with friends or family but also from their usual health and community support structures.
Some seniors are delaying basic health services due to the decrease in the number of appointments available or fear for their safety in public spaces. And, recent studies indicate while older adults are less likely to report mental health challenges like loneliness and depression, individuals over the age of 65 are at much greater risk for the physical and mental impacts associated with pandemic isolation.
Throughout the last year, our senior programs team and volunteers have worked together to ensure that seniors receive the support they want and need from ongoing small acts of kindness like card making to grocery delivery and online education classes.
Most recently, at the Volunteer Center, we’ve launched the program Stay Connected.
Stay Connected provides older adults with the opportunity to access community resources, safety information, and social connection.
“Our goal is to help balance diverging needs between maintaining distance for physical safety and achieving the mental health boost that naturally comes from daily connections with others,” said Volunteer Center Senior Programs Manager Tara Ireland.
The Stay Connected Program enables local seniors to get matched with a friendly caller for regular phone communication and for help with navigating community resources. Seniors get to choose when and how often they want to connect with their Stay Connected partner.
“We chat with seniors on a daily basis through the various programs we run about a host of concerns including how they can get help with household services, safely get their groceries or find out more about vaccines,” Ireland said. “Often unspoken in these conversations is the simple desire to hear another voice on the line.”
She added, “It is our hope through this program that we can create stronger bonds for our senior community and help seniors persevere through these trying times by providing them with key resources and connections.”
Local seniors are invited to learn more about Stay Connected and the various services offered through the Volunteer Center Senior Programs including grocery shopping support, falls prevention resources, home safety, technology support, and basic vaccine information. Through ongoing calls with a knowledgeable volunteer, seniors can maintain a consistent line of patient and friendly support.
Seniors are invited to call 831-427-5070 ext. 115 or email [email protected] to learn more.
We are also looking for individuals who are interested in volunteering to help seniors in the community stay connected. Volunteers are needed to connect with seniors over the phone to coach them through the resources that might be most helpful to them as they remain isolated due to COVID.
Friendly Callers will be matched with a senior and will have the chance to build a meaningful ongoing relationship.
“A friendly voice may be the only human connection beyond the TV that some local seniors experience in a day and we believe that fellow senior volunteers will be the right counterbalance to ensure that no one feels like they have to go through this process alone,” states Ireland.
How to Help
Volunteer with Stay Connected: Learn more about Serving as a Stay Connected Friendly Caller and determine if it is the right volunteer fit by attending a brief orientation. Online orientations are available every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon. RSVP for an Upcoming Orientation or reach out to Stay Connected Program Specialist Vanessa Mendoza at [email protected]
Card Making: Register with our ongoing Card Making Project and design cards from home.