Engage seniors: Reaching out to those in need

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates around the state and nation, many people might find themselves wishing for a kind word or something pleasant to occupy their minds during this period of social distancing and isolation.

Especially older adults who may have faced isolation and/or medical challenges before the pandemic.

“The feedback we’ve been getting from our elderly friends is that they’re scared and even more isolated than normal,” Carol Korpela, program director of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly Upper Michigan Chapter, told The Mining Journal in a recent interview.

Fortunately, Yoopers are a resourceful bunch and the Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly Upper Michigan Chapter is launching “Mission in Motion,” a new initiative that allows volunteers to engage with seniors and create friendships while following social distancing practices, according to a Thursday Mining Journal article.

We commend the Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly Upper Michigan Chapter for finding a creative, compassionate and safe way to continue delivering its services, as well as the 50-plus people who had already expressed interest in volunteering to help with the new initiative.

We believe this is a key program, as it can help both older people and volunteers feel connected and purposeful during a crisis that has left many struggling with isolation.

“(The goal is) to continue serving our original mission of relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly,” Korpela told the Journal. “Even though we are practicing social distancing, we are also practicing distant socializing. We are committed to serving our elderly friends in other ways. Social distancing may slow the spread of COVID-19 but it can come at the cost of loneliness. Our elderly friends were already isolated and lonely before social distancing. While we want to keep them safe, we also need to keep them interactive and engaged in their community. Our Mission in Motion activities enable that.”

So how do you get older adults connected and interacting with others when physically being together isn’t possible and some have limited access to technology?

The group came up with several creative ways to handle this, including weekly conference calls with small groups — which allows older adults who aren’t equipped with a smartphone or an internet connection to participate — as well as virtual visual relaxation, trivia, reading and poetry; friendship mail; and much more.

This means there are many ways that seniors can participate, and many ways that others can lend a helping hand.

If you are able, we encourage you to volunteer with the program, as it’s likely to bring some much-needed connection and joy into the lives of the seniors who you’ll be helping, as well as your own life.

Volunteer opportunities for this new program include helping with virtual activities; making telephone calls to chat with Forever Friends; assisting seniors with picking up and delivering prescriptions and groceries from the store or Little Brothers’ pantry; offering medical transportation to and from doctor appointments; writing letters or making greeting cards for Easter or birthdays; and offering office support through handling phone calls, files, data entry and more.

To learn more, call 906-482-6944, email michigan@littlebrothers.org, or visit houghton.littlebrothers.org. To mail a letter to a Forever Friend, send a note to 527 Hancock St., Hancock, Michigan, 49930.


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