Friendly telephone calls fight against isolation and loneliness in seniors
ElderSource recently launched the Caring Connections Telephone Reassurance Program to help fight the loneliness and isolation seniors experience when living alone or home bound. Caring Connections provides trained volunteers who make regular, friendly phone calls to seniors giving them an opportunity to make a connection outside of their home.
A report from the Department of Elder Affairs indicates that 21 percent of seniors aged 60 and older are living alone in Northeast Florida. Isolation often affects the mental and physical health of older adults. The goals of the program are to improve the quality of life for seniors and reduce concerns facing homebound seniors such as depression, anxiety, loneliness and cognitive decline. Since the program launched in January, participants and volunteers have given positive feedback.
“It’s great to know I have people who care and who won’t let me slip through the cracks,” said 71-year-old MaryJoe Bernard who receives weekly phone calls. “The calls are comforting and my volunteer always has encouraging words to share.”
Valerie Hurt is a Caring Connections volunteer who looks forward to speaking with her assigned senior every week. “There are so many seniors who are disconnected from the community and this program allows them to talk about what’s going on in their world so that they don’t feel as alone,” she said.
According to Vanessa Boyer, Volunteer Coordinator for the program, seniors can sign themselves up or be referred to the program by a family member, neighbor or caregiver. Seniors must be 60-years-old and live within ElderSource’s service area that includes Duval, Clay, Baker, Nassau, Flagler, Volusia and St. Johns counties.
Caring Connections volunteers undergo a background screening and reference check, attend training sessions, work toward establishing a friendly relationship with seniors; and commit to calling a senior at least once a week for a minimum of six months to a year. “We take special care in making sure our volunteers are trained and screened,” said Boyer.
Persons interested in becoming a Caring Connections volunteer or know of someone who might benefit from the program are encouraged to call Vanessa Boyer, Volunteer Coordinator, at 904-391-6631.
ElderSource is a local nonprofit organization designated by the state as the Area Agency on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Center for Northeast Florida. The agency provides information and referral resources for caregivers and seniors in Northeast Florida, reaching more than 12,000 people in its seven county service area — Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, St. Johns and Volusia. Programs and services are funded by federal, state and local grants as well as private donations and endowments.