Maybe your spouse has passed away or few of your friends drive anymore. If you’re feeling isolated, there’s a federally funded program called Senior Companions that you might want to check out.
Operating for decades in almost every state, Senior Companions connects seniors with volunteers, 55 and over, to help perform tasks like paying bills and shopping, but also to share conversation, companionship, and time. While the companion is visiting, the pair may play a game of cards, watch a movie, and discuss everything from gardening to the “good old days” – all while fostering a friendship, which, in most cases, lasts for years. According to one volunteer interviewed in a recent NPR story, the relationships he’s developed while in the program have actually been deeper than most of his other friendships!
The program is designed to help seniors maintain their independence or provide caregivers with time for errands or a short respite, but it’s just as beneficial for companions, who serve 15 to 40 hours a week helping seniors in their communities. While companions only receive a small, hourly stipend, the rewards are often so much greater, like a sense of purpose and a more positive outlook on life. Volunteering has also been shown to add years to one’s life!
In a 2011 AARP article, Dr. Erwin Tan, director of Senior Corps, an umbrella agency that encompasses Senior Companions, says, “Many of our volunteers sign up to do a good deed but end up with a friend for life. When you give love and compassion, you get back many times over.”