For at least 16 years, our community has participated in the Senior Companion Program and hundreds of our residents have benefited from the compassion and care these volunteers provide.
Senior Companions are older adults (60 and older) who assist adults and their peers to maintain the independence they have worked for all their lives. Whether it’s helping with errands or just lending an ear, Senior Companions do everything from being a friend, providing rides to appointments, picking up groceries, going for a walk, preparing light meals, helping with hair or nails, making phone calls or keeping clients company.
“They become the residents’ friends. One of our Senior Companions found out after being randomly assigned two clients, that she used to go to the same dances, so they have a lot to talk about. Recently, one of our Senior Companions came back from a week away, and one of her clients just gave her a great big hug and said she missed her. I agree. The Senior Companions are truly missed when gone! I truly couldn’t do my full job as director without them,” said Joy Parker, activities director and volunteer coordinator.
Currently, there are 20 residents in our community who benefit from the program. Since we’re celebrating Volunteer Appreciation Week April 7-13, we’re putting the spotlight on several of the Senior Companions who make a difference in our community every day.
Linda has been a Senior Companion for the past six years, visiting clients three days a week. “I’m a Senior Companion because it gets me out of my apartment, but the biggest reason is to help people who don’t have family who can help them. I’d encourage anyone who is able to do this. It gives you a good feeling knowing you’ve helped someone or just listen to their problems.”
Mopelola “Lola” Lolusanya
Lola has been encouraging her clients to move as a Senior Companion since 2005. “I’m able to move, and I like to make people happy. I like reading to them – their Bible, books or letters. We go outside and get fresh air and sunshine. We take them to activities around here – Bible study, Bingo, games, movies, dancing, sewing. I enjoy what I do. I’m a gifted singer, and I sing and dance with them. It makes them happy and feel alive.”
Goldie started volunteering as a Senior Companion 17 years next month. “My first client was 98 when I started going to her. Every week I visited her I had to make her two pecan pies. When I came back the next week they were gone, and I made her two more.”
For Goldie, being a Senior Companion is just as much about helping others as helping herself.
“I’ll be 78 in April. I have arthritis and fibromyalgia, but when you have these things you have to keep moving, or you won’t be able to. This helps me help others, but helps me keep going, too. I also like to think about others and how they feel and encourage them to do things if they can. I think it’s important to let them know they’re important too.
Elaine heard about the Senior Companion Program from a neighbor who was one about seven years ago. “I think it’s the greatest thing I’ve heard of in a long, long time. It’s too bad more counties don’t have this program because it’s incredible how many people are out there that can’t get out of their house. It gets me out and it’s a joy bringing joy to someone else and the joy it gives me.”
June had already been visiting with people at a nursing home where her mother lived in Sullivan, Mo., for years before she came to Rolla and heard about this program. She became a Senior Companion about five years ago after hearing about it from a friend.
“I like to visit. And most of them can’t remember what happened yesterday or the day before but they can remember WAY back—they like to reminisce, and I like to hear it. And I encourage it. I’m a rooter on. Rah, rah, rah! And I like to get them out to activities to get away from their room and get amongst the others. I’m in my 80s, but I’m still able to get out and do something that I feel like is going to help somebody.”
If you’re interested in becoming a Senior Companion or want more information about the program, call 573-458-6180.
PHOTOS: Senior Companions June Hinson, Mopelola "Lola" Lolusanya, Goldie Masterson and Linda McCoy (top), Senior Companion Elaine Gillis (bottom).