Serving Adults. Supporting Independence. (SASI) has long been a staple of Chicago’s North Shore communities. CMSS Senior Connections volunteer program “brings the world in” for many older adults who are able to stay connected despite the challenging times we are living in.
Senior Connections matches older adults with volunteer visitors to create personal, caring experiences together. The visitor program lessens isolation among older adults but also brings real value to the lives of volunteers and strengthens the caring fabric of the larger community.
Due to COVID-19, Senior Connections paused in-person visits earlier this year, but the program found new ways of connecting volunteers to CMSS communities and residents. Here are a few ways the program, and CMSS in general, are making a difference during this time.
Growing Senior Connections’ Friendly Callers Programs
Senior Connections’ staff and existing volunteers onboarded new volunteers this spring and summer for the Friendly Callers program. They connect with over 30 clients each week over the phone in addition to the work done by existing volunteers. Volunteers call older adults each week to ask how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. They each share thoughts about the weeks’ news and any plans for the days ahead.
“Our ever-reliable volunteers and staff have been tireless in keeping in touch with our clients and responding to their emotional needs,” Mary Ellen Viskocil, director of Senior Connections said. “It’s important to us that older adults feel they have a friend and a place to turn when they need someone to talk to.”
Senior Connections recently discovered that a senior was trying to navigate her home in an extremely worn wheelchair. The wheels on the chair didn’t move and the woman had to move the wheelchair around using her feet. When it looked like a local social service agency might not be able to assist with helping her get a new one, an appeal to a local Evanston neighborhood group turned into a nearly brand new wheelchair for the senior.
Connecting With Older Adults by Mail
In the spring, Rex Huppke wrote a column in the Chicago Tribune titled “Pandemic Pals.” In his column, and in an effort to combat social isolation, Huppke encouraged communities like CMSS to reach out.
“If you work at or run or know of an assisted living facility, a facility that works with people with disabilities or any individuals who might benefit from cards or letters, let me know,” Huppke said. “I now have a small army of volunteers eager to help.”
After connecting with Huppke, Senior Connections saw a spike in mail. People from around the U.S. sent hundreds of cards and drawings to CMSS and Senior Connections. Older adults in CMSS communities loved the cards and pictures.
Working with Restaurants to Deliver Food to CMSS Communities
Our friends at NaKorn in Evanston planned a special dinner delivery for over three dozen older adults in the spring. Individuals enjoyed a free and delicious Thai meal thanks to the generosity of the restaurant.
CMSS has also been lucky enough to partner with Frontline Foods, a nonprofit that launched in March in response to COVID-19. They support hospital workers, first responders, public servants, and other frontline workers, along with affected communities, by providing donated meals.
Want to Get Involved?
CMSS Senior Connections is looking for volunteers! If you’re interested in developing relationships with older adults and giving back to the community, head to our website to fill out the volunteer application.