Connecting Seniors to the Community
When Sue moved into a new senior housing complex three years ago after her husband’s death, she expected to find friends and form a community. After all, 60% of the residents were older single women such as herself. She hadn’t counted on only a small percentage of them speaking her language fluently. Even with her best attempts at socializing, Sue found herself growing more isolated over the first two years she lived there.
Sue didn’t have a car, and in the suburban area of the housing community, she could rarely get out and about to seek other ways to socialize. She could barely even get out to buy things she needed, and had to rely on her daughter’s monthly visit from Dayton to get her errands done. When her daughter visited, she was alarmed to discover that her mother often hadn’t left the complex all month. Sue told her children she often felt like she didn’t have any reason to get out of bed in the morning, and they started to grow concerned about her as she exhibited more depressive symptoms. They started talking about moving her to an assisted-living facility.
Around this time, Sue met Ruthie in the lobby of her complex while Ruthie was helping another resident bring some shopping bags in from her car, and Sue and Ruthie hit it off right away. Sue discovered that Ruthie had taken the other resident out shopping as part of her role as a Senior Companion, and Ruthie offered to recommend Sue for the program.
Ruthie told Sue that, through the Senior Companion program, CSS pairs able, low-income seniors with homebound seniors to provide companionship and care. Ruthie has been a Senior Companion with CSS for fifteen years and usually maintains a caseload of eight clients. She spends 35 or more hours a week visiting her clients—who quickly become her friends.
After hearing about the program, Sue jumped at the idea of being one of Ruthie’s clients.
For the past year, Ruthie has made weekly visits to Sue, and those visits have changed Sue’s life. Whether Ruthie takes Sue out shopping or to the library, or they stay and visit at Sue’s apartment, the two talk and laugh the entire time they are together. They share a common love of books and music, and have become fast friends. Ruthie, a long-time resident in Sue’s neighborhood, has even been able to advise Sue on how to improve her life and create community in the area she lives.
Sue says that Ruthie’s visits, “prevent me from being depressed and isolated.” In the year Ruthie has been visiting, her depressive symptoms have gradually improved and she has a reason to get out of bed. Even her children see a huge difference in her mood. Sue says that, without the Senior Companion program and Ruthie’s visits, she would be depressed and isolated to the point where she would have trouble living independently. Sue’s daughter says, “I was so worried about my mom. But since Ruthie started visiting, I feel comfortable with her continuing to live on her own, because I know she’s not really alone.”
Ruthie isn’t surprised, because she’s heard the same things before. She says of her clients, “They talk about how lonely they were before I came.”
Many seniors experience loneliness and isolation. CSS’ Senior Companion program lets seniors know they are not forgotten, and often helps them to stay in their homes and remain independent for longer.