For those of you who have been reading Prime Time Seniors for a while, you may remember our article on the Benefits in Action (BIA) Connectedness Program last summer. If not, our Connectedness program is our program where we contact individuals facing social isolation and connect them to others in their community. We are still operating the program with great results, but we need more volunteers to make the Connectedness Calls. Do you want to learn more about the Connectedness Program? Are you interested in making Connectedness Calls? If so, pay close attention to this article.
We started our Connectedness Program at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we realized that stay at home and safer at home orders were leading to social isolation. Since the beginning of this year, we have contacted over 976 unique individuals and talk to approximately 50 to 60 individuals on a weekly basis. Individuals contacted by our volunteers get the opportunity to talk about anything and everything and, more importantly, to form a connection with the volunteer caller. Individuals who are part of the Connectedness Program report increased happiness and wellbeing as a result of the calls.
Our Connectedness volunteers also report that they are happier and have an increased sense of purpose because of the connections they make through their phone calls. Volunteers come from all backgrounds and walks of life. However, they share one thing in common: the desire to form relationships with people. Volunteers typically work between one and two hours a week and make approximately 1 Connectedness Call per hour. Schedules are flexible and volunteers can work the hours they choose. Volunteers don’t need any specialized training but do need empathy and an easygoing personality.
Connectedness Calls take many different forms. The main form our calls take is telephone conversations between two individuals. However, we have a variety of different Connectedness services. For example, we have a music therapy group. The group meets on zoom and discusses how music affects their body, mind, and personal wellness. We also have a peer support group led by a social worker. The topics at the peer support group are flexible and include isolation and how COVID-19 is affecting them.
So, why is our Connectedness Program so important. It is important because social isolation is a real issue facing older adults. We often interact with less and less individuals as we grow older. The pandemic has exacerbated this issue for people of all ages, but particularly for older adults. And the effects of social isolation are real. Prolonged social isolation can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Social isolation is also correlated with conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, arthritis, and cardiovascular problems.
Our Connectedness Program is so successful that we have made it a permanent part of BIA. Our staff and volunteers have embraced it, with some staff members volunteering additional time outside of their regular work hours to make Connectedness Calls. However, as a non-profit organization with limited funds and resources, we need you to make this good work possible. It is only because of the hard work and dedication of our many volunteers that BIA is a trusted community resource. If the Connectedness Program interests you, please consider volunteering your time to the program.