Need a Connection
The COVID-19 pandemic is finally winding down. However, social isolation among older adults is still prevalent when compared to the general population. Luckily, Benefits in Action (BIA) still operates its Connectedness Program. For those of you who are regular subscribers to PrimeTime Seniors, you may remember our previous articles discussing our Connectedness Program. If not, our Connectedness program is our program where we contact individuals facing social isolation and connect them to others in their community. 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. We designed the Connectedness Program to help address this social isolation by pairing those facing isolation with a volunteer who could chat with them about a variety of topics. The program was designed to give many individuals, particularly older adults, the opportunity to talk to someone in a friendly and nonjudgmental environment. We also provide direct referrals to a therapist who accepts Medicare and Medicaid for more complex needs. However, the program itself was never meant to replace or serve as a form of mental health therapy. This means that our volunteers do not perform crisis interventions and are otherwise not trained to perform the services of a therapist.
The Connectedness Program has proven successful. In 2022, we talked to almost 200 unique individuals. We talk to an average of 50 individuals a week. Individuals contacted by our volunteers do not get mental health services, but they do get the opportunity to talk about just about anything and, more importantly, to form a connection with the volunteer caller. Individuals who need other services provided by BIA also receive referrals to BIA navigators for those services. Those services include assistance with Medicare and Social Security issues. Individuals who are part of the Connectedness Program report increased happiness and well-being because of the calls.
The Connectedness Program also has biweekly peer support groups and music therapy groups. These two programs are designed to complement each other. The peer support groups provide a place for folks to talk about various issues affecting them in a group setting. The music therapy sessions are about helping folks actively regulate their emotions. Together, these programs provide comprehensive support in a group setting.
We are also in the process of adding many new features to the Connectedness program. One of these features is a series of upcoming mental wellness webinars. The webinars will occur monthly and focus on different aspects of mental health. We are also in the process of getting direct referrals to a psychiatrist who accepts Medicare and Medicaid for more complex mental health needs.
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 two and three hours a week and make approximately 1 Connectedness Call per hour. Schedules are flexible and volunteers can work the hours they choose. Volunteers do not need any specialized training but do need empathy and an easygoing personality.
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 fewer individuals as we grow older. And the effects of social isolation are real. Prolonged social isolation can lead to diseases such as dementia. Social isolation is also correlated with conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, arthritis, and cardiovascular problems.
Our Connectedness Program is 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 for the program.
Do you want to volunteer to make Connectedness Calls? Do you want someone to talk to, whether it’s to share your life story or just a friend to check in on you every week? If so, contact BIA for more information on our Connectedness Program, including how to become a Connectedness volunteer. You can reach us at 720-221-8354 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.