- Written by Janis Merrell
- Published: October 23, 2020
In this month’s Seniorgram, LifePath’s Executive Director Barbara Bodzin described how social distancing, coupled with safer-at-home policies, has significantly segregated elders and diminished their interactions with their family and friends, while restricted access to community supports, social engagement, and routine medical care have only further isolated older adults.
In April 2020, at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, LifePath initiated the Phone Pals program, predicting and addressing this increased isolation. As our staff were reaching out to people via the phone, we realized this type of connection was more important than ever during the pandemic. The Phone Pals program was developed to meet this need by building a connection and social support for elders in an informal way.
Today, through the Phone Pals program, our trained volunteers continue to provide companionship and social interaction via weekly phone calls. Volunteers and elders connect by phone or video chat, depending on the comfort and preferences of the elder. Most matches talk weekly and calls range from 10–30 minutes.
As our staff were reaching out to people via the phone, we realized this type of connection was more important than ever during the pandemic.
Joyce St. Jean, Special Programs Manager, says, “LifePath will continue to provide the Phone Pals program to those who are interested in keeping this connection. What was the old AT&T jingle from the 70’s, ‘Reach out and touch someone’? It can be that simple and this can have a profound effect on those needing human connection.”
According to a participant who is an 82-year-old Athol resident, “My Phone Pal is a hoot. We have a lot in common.”
Currently the Phone Pals program has 12 participants and 13 volunteers, with 6 elders waiting to be matched with a volunteer. We work to make matches based on both people’s interests and preferences. Our volunteers are a cross section of caring community members seeking to support others during these challenging times.