Whatcom County program pairs volunteers with lonely seniors

Published on Tue, Nov 23, 2010
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The Whatcom County Interfaith Coalition’s Friendly Visitors program will offer a training session during April and May for individuals who wish to make a difference in the lives of isolated older adults.

The program benefits isolated seniors throughout Whatcom County who have little social contact with friends or family and are waiting to be matched with compassionate volunteers who will visit them weekly at home for conversation, an outing, or hobby. 

Seniors throughout Whatcom County who have little social contact with friends or family are waiting to be matched with compassionate volunteers who will visit them weekly at home.

Individuals interested in working one-on-one with seniors in need of caring human connection can attend a training session on Tuesday, November 30, from 1 to 4 p.m. in Blaine.

After attending the three-hour training session, volunteers are matched with seniors whose health and well-being may improve.
All volunteers and seniors are interviewed and carefully screened to ensure the most compatible matches are made.

Physical and mental-health consequences from the lack of meaningful social contact are well documented in numerous studies. Benefits include improved self-esteem, mental health and alertness, reduced stress, lower blood pressure, less risk of heart disease, and fewer tendencies toward smoking or obesity.

Friendly Visitors, a non-profit program funded in part by Whatcom County, focuses on people who are disconnected from the community for a variety of reasons, including mobility limitations, health issues, few friends or family living nearby, residence in a rural setting, or outliving a spouse, partner, family, or friends. 

The program was created after the local Area Agency on Aging determined in a 2003 survey that the single greatest un-met need of seniors in Whatcom County was isolation and loneliness. 

Health consequences from the lack of meaningful social contact are well documented in numerous studies nationwide, including documented indications that seniors who are lonely and isolated are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.
Friendly Visitors began making matches in 2004, and each year approximately 1,800 visits are made for 2,600 hours.

For more information, call 756-5179.