By Shirley Dykshoorn, Vice President of Senior and Humanitarian Services at Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota
Finding high-quality care in America can be a taxing task for adults living in retirement. Resources for older Americans who live in rural areas are harder to come by compared to urban areas, and that divide is quite pronounced in North Dakota.
Partly in response to this dynamic, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND) has developed a deep understanding of the needs of seniors, helping to ensure they live healthy and fulfilling lives. As part of our related work, we created as part of Lutheran Services in America’s “Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative” our Volunteer Companions program, established to serve isolated and lonely seniors, and building in flexibility for younger adults to volunteer.
For larger context, the Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative we participate in is focused on supporting the healthy, independent aging of America’s seniors – particularly those struggling with limited resources in rural, isolated settings. With generous support from a large, philanthropic partner, the Collaborative learning model is committed to developing and implementing sustainable solutions that enable older rural adults to maintain their autonomy, improve their health and well-being, and achieve a higher quality of life – including maintaining ties to people around them.
“Loneliness is probably one of the biggest issues as people age,” notes LSSND Team Lead Becky Telin in a Minot Daily News story. As such, the no-fee Volunteer Companions program we created as part of the Collaborative provides lonely, homebound seniors with one-on-one companionship, recreation, and even help with light tasks in their homes. The program’s volunteer services serve the dual purpose of providing a high-quality experience that enriches the life of the volunteer while meeting critical community needs. We provide clients with companionship and a level of support that improves their well-being and quality of life. Visits are regularly scheduled based on the needs of the client and the volunteer’s availability. Currently, 25 Volunteer Companions are serving nearly 100 clients.
What makes our Volunteer Companions program so helpful is how it provides personalized care for each individual, and complements our efforts to help delay or prevent institutionalized care for seniors who want to continue living in the community. Importantly, the program also aims to increase the number of elders receiving nutritional, medical, and transportation support on the North Dakota tribal reservations.
For Volunteer Companion Tina Jacobs, having the opportunity to provide companionship is a fulfilling way to give back to the community. “The most rewarding part of being a Companion is the opportunity to learn and be reminded of the simple and important things in life,” she said.
As LSSND celebrates 100 years of serving the community this year, we are looking to expand our ranks of volunteers in order to help seniors live independently for as long as possible. Find out how you can get involved by contacting Becky Telin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-838-7800.
To learn more about the Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative, contact David Zauche at email@example.com.