Make a difference in a Port Coquitlam seniors’ life by volunteering to be a phone buddy.
It doesn’t take much to start up a conversation with an elderly person who may be housebound, grieving a recent loss or missing their friends and family during COVID-19.
“We just talk about life in general,” says Royce Shook, president of the Wilson Centre Seniors’ Advisory.
His group is making it a priority to contact members — of which there are more than 1,000 — to establish contact and make follow-up calls if requested.
“Most of my people are in their 80s,” said Royce, who makes weekly calls to a group of seniors, many of whom didn’t have anyone else to talk to.
“In the initial pilot, we found people wanted more phone calls,”
Shook is reaching out to the wider community to see if there are people with the time and inclination to be volunteer for Phone Buddies.
PORT COQUITLAM SENIORS ISOLATED AND LONELY
The idea grew out of a Port Coquitlam Foundation study in 2018 that found a lot of people were feeling lonely and isolated. In 2019, the Vital Signs Task Force was formed to investigate solutions for the issue.
Working with the city of Port Coquitlam, the Wilson Seniors’ Advisory Board began to reach out to members to see if isolation and belonging were a problem for its members.
So far the program has been well received and, in early 2021, the Phone Buddies program was expanded.
Shook said even though restrictions are waning, many seniors still need a check in, and a listening ear.
Volunteers also provide information about grocery and prescription delivery, digital access to books and entertainment through the library, safe ways to stay physically active (such pre-recorded fitness videos made available through the city’s website,) and referrals to support services.
Mina, a member of the Wilson Seniors Centre, said she appreciates the weekly calls, saying they give her a bit of a boost at a difficult time.
Recently widowed, and having lost both a son and a daughter in recent years, Mina said she misses her family and the calls prevent her from becoming too isolated.
WIDOW GRATEFUL FOR THE CALL AS SHE NAVIGATES LIFE WITHOUT CLOSE FAMILY
“Sometimes [seniors] feel so lonely in the home, and when they talk to someone they feel a little bit better,” she said.
Shook said Phone Buddies is making a huge difference in people’s lives in that it can prevent illnesses associated with social isolation, including early death.
Volunteers will get training, a chance to practice, and a script to start out.
A police record check is required because seniors are a vulnerable population.