Maintaining Senior Companionship During A Pandemic
During the solitary isolation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a number of local seniors without any family nearby to interact with or to fall back on for support. This can be a difficult, lonely time for them, and there is a great need for identifying ways to connect with others. In response to this need, Senior Companionship was created.
Senior Companionship is an organization comprised of local high school volunteers that visit seniors to provide conversation and connection. In a lower-risk group for contracting the coronavirus, these teenagers provide much-needed connections for older individuals spending a great deal of time on their own. Now serving 15 seniors, Senior Companionship volunteers visit them at their homes—sitting in their front yards, maintaining social distance and just chatting. Through one of these visits, they met Ms. Ann, an 88-year-old Glen Allen resident who recently lost her husband. She shared that during the pandemic, she can no longer attend church and sometimes only has her cats to talk to for days at a time. She welcomed the opportunity to spend time with volunteers so interested in listening to her and making her feel cared for.
In addition to the visits, volunteers have shared their phone numbers with the seniors so they know they have someone to contact should they need food or medicine delivered. Through each visit, they learn more about the seniors they serve and make personal, meaningful connections. One volunteer learned that Ms. Ann loves nature, so she brought her plants and pictures of flowers to make her feel good. Other seniors enjoy sharing family pictures with the volunteers and have wonderful conversations about their different backgrounds, history and cultural traditions.
Some of the seniors expressed interest in creating virtual time together, so Zoom meetings are also scheduled where they can talk about news, food or anything that interests them. Although this began as a way to help lonely seniors, the young Senior Companionship volunteers have gained a lot through the experience as well—improved communication skills, increased compassion and special friendships.
One of the main goals for Senior Companionship is to bring the generations together and show them that despite differences in age and backgrounds, there are many ways we can still help one another during this unprecedented pandemic.
For tips on supporting seniors, visit TheNewWoman.org/Support-Seniors.
Tanisha Banerjee, a senior in John R. Tucker High School’s IB program, is the founder of Senior Companionship and TheNewWoman.org, a digital media and lifestyle brand covering women’s wellness, sustainable lifestyle and eco-friendly products.