Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spotlight on Supporting Elders: A Phone Call Makes a Difference

This week, we feature a post from our intern, Alla, on the importance of elder's emotional state during these tough economic times and ways elders can participate in their communities while aging in place with dignity. Stay tuned for an upcoming post next week that will discuss this in greater detail.

Many seniors struggle to make ends meet and suffer from economic hardship. Economic instability is a very serious problem; it often lends to significant stress and emotional vulnerabilitymaking it hard for seniors to enjoy their retirement. Given this, it is very important to check on older adults, especially those living alone, both to make sure their basic needs are met and to offer emotional support.

CheckMates is a program that does just this. CheckMates is a telephone reassurance program of AgeWell Pittsburgh led by seniors themselves. Older adult volunteers make weekly telephone calls to other seniors who may be homebound, isolated and lonely. Volunteers generally donate about an hour each week and make seven to 15 calls.

CheckMates gets some names and phone numbers of potential call recipients from children and concerned neighbors and also uses available demographic studies. While all seniors are eligible to receive calls, CheckMates targets the most vulnerable – people over age 85 living in their communities and assisted living facilities. If a volunteer notices an elder on a call that needs extra assistance, they simply notify a supervisor who will try to find an agency that can meet the individual’s need.

CheckMates illustrates how small things – for example, just a simple phone call once in a while – can make a world of difference for a person who feels lonely and vulnerable. Importantly, CheckMates volunteers are also elders. As a result, the program makes it possible for senior volunteers to feel fulfilled, needed and helpful. CheckMates volunteers often become friends with the people they call, creating a stronger sense of community and emotional support.

For more information about CheckMates, click here to read an article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

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