Celebrating Seniors during Older Americans Month in May

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This month, Institute on Aging wants to recognize some of the glorious ways in which Bay Area locals are taking care of older neighbors, family members and friends, as well as the ways that older adults enrich the rest of us — not only during shelter-in-place, but all year long.

I’ve been volunteering for 10 years at the Friendship Line and I love it. After having a career as a geriatric social worker for 25 years, I thought I wanted to work with children in my retirement days, but quickly realized I missed working with the elderly. My cousin told me about the Friendship Line and I immediately signed up. I am 83 myself, and not shy about sharing my age with callers since I think it makes me more relatable. Quite often I get calls from people I’ve previously spoken with, and we pick up our conversation right where we left off. So many are isolated seniors, and the Friendship Line is really important to them as they don’t have anyone else to relate to in person.

–Linda Lyons, Friendship Line Volunteer

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Slippery Fish Preschool (my youngest son goes there), and IOA’s Activities Director, Steve Jacob, of the support services team at Martin Luther Tower (affordable senior housing) are all working together to assemble and deliver care packages to the 120 older residents sheltering-in-place at Martin Luther Tower. Each will receive a goody bag left on their door that includes letters and artwork from the preschool children.

–Rowena Fontanos, San Francisco Resident

On my block in San Francisco, we maintain an occasional online-community forum. Many of our members are aging residents or have older loved ones, so I recently reminded everyone about our Friendship Line and its magnificent ability to alleviate isolation and loneliness—an important superpower during this time of lessening live interactions. Not only did I receive gratitude notes via email, but a neighbor, whom I’d never met, showed up at my front door to thank me in person (keeping social distance, of course)! Her enthusiastic gift of gratitude really belongs to Friendship Line and the amazing staff who practice compassionate listening and support of those who need it most.

— Caitlin Morgan, Education Manager, Institute on Aging

We will never forget Father Dennis, one of the sweetest men that many of us had ever met. Formerly, he was a priest who spent most of his time in the Tenderloin helping those who needed it most. He knew the neighborhood was dangerous, but that’s why he had to be of service there. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he became depressed and almost non-verbal after leaving his position at the church, but once he started coming to our social day program five days a week, he awoke again! His caregiver noted that after his first week with us, as he was driving him home, Father said, “Oh, look!  It’s that funny mustard colored house we saw yesterday” with the old, familiar delight in his voice that had been absent for so long. After that, Father started wearing his “funny t-shirts” to the center. Think Garfield saying “Ugh, Mondays” or “My friends went to Puerto Rico and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” grandpa humor type of shirts.

Father was thriving and his joy radiated to everyone with whom he came in contact. One day, I was walking with Father and he started to cry. When I inquired as to what was bothering him, he said he was overwhelmed because in his previous life, his purpose was to serve and take care of others. Now his purpose was to receive that same care. He told me that’s how he felt connected to God. I, of course, had tears of gratitude streaming down my face. He had articulated so simply one of our most human conditions: the power of care.

–Alison Moritz, Program Director of the Enrichment Center at the Presidio

Please consider making a contribution to our Care for Caregivers fund today. Because with your help, our collective care can go farther. Donate now!

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