Senior Companion Care: Giving and Receiving

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Older adults walking outside.

Lana Glover is proud to help make it possible for Juliette Silvers to remain living in her south Minneapolis home. For Juliette, who is blind, errands like picking up groceries and medications can be challenging – especially in the winter. Lana, Juliette’s LSS Senior Companion, helps her navigate icy sidewalks, corral her cat for trips to the vet and gets her printer unstuck when she can’t see what’s causing the problem. The two also have become fast friends.

“With the right match, this program can change someone’s life!” Juliette exclaimed.

Anne Vanelli, who is 99, believes that good health and support from her community has made it possible for her to keep the independent life she loves. She’s lived in her St. Paul home for 60 years, and reports that she still does an hour of yard work each day.

For the little support she needs, Anne relies on weekly visits from her LSS Senior Companion, Anita Nelson. Anita makes sure Anne has fresh groceries, a reliable ride to the doctor and a friendly, familiar face to visit with each week.

With the coming age wave, creative strategies like the Senior Companion approach will be essential to effectively meet the growing cost of health and social needs. We will rely on more people like Lana and Anita – retirees who have the energy, time and compassion to help their peers.

Four years ago, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota developed the concept of Abundant Aging to meet the social needs of an aging population by using the wealth of energy, time and wisdom of the retiring Baby Boomers. The concept affirms supporting people in their retirement years to live fully-engaged lives. Rather than seeing this time in life as stepping back from community involvement, Abundant Aging calls for more engagement through giving back and caring for your neighbors.

LSS Senior Companions offer one way of giving back by providing others with rides to medical appointments, errands and friendly visits. Sharing everyday tasks is another way of caring for your neighbor – exchanging lawn mowing for meals or babysitting, for example.

“We’ve always been good neighbors in Minnesota, but we’ll need to become even more committed to watching out for our neighbors in the years to come,” explained Jodi Harpstead, CEO at Lutheran Social Service.

Lana and Anita have found that the benefits of befriending go both ways. Lana sees that each person she helps has an interesting life story, and enjoys the variety of activities and adventures. Anita has learned both the art of couponing from Anne, and the secret to a long life! “To stay healthy and vibrant, you need to stay active,” Anita said. “Anne didn’t retire until she was 92!