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Phone Buddies bridge the gap of social distancing

Submitted by Janet Rhea Payne

COVID-19 has been a challenging time for senior adults in the community many of whom live alone, and due to social distancing lacking regular visits from family and friends.The Phone Buddy Program of the Johnson County Senior Center stepped in to help bridge the communication gap back in April by pairing up senior adults with volunteers who would make regular phone calls to check in with the seniors.

“When Kathy called me to help the senior center stay in touch with folks during our current health crisis, I jumped at the chance to stay in touch with those who had come to think of the senior center as their home away from home,” said senior Paula Walter. “Every week, I would sit down with my list of names and phone numbers, pen, and paper ready to connect with new friends and old. It was a way for me to connect with others like myself who missed their families, friends, and church. Through our chats, I learned who was gardening, whose adult children lived close by, and those like mine that lived far away.”

Walter said she has learned what books people were reading, working in their vegetable garden, making quilts, and cookies.

“We recognize that older adults and caregivers face many hardships due to COVID-19,” said Kathy Motsinger, Director of the Johnson County Senior Center. “We want to show that we care through conversation and make sure their needs are met during this very difficult time.

Motsinger emphasized that each week, a volunteer calls and checks on a loved one.

“During these calls, we will check-in, assess your needs, and see if there is any way we can better assist you,” she said. “Our volunteers will conduct one call a week, but frequently more often.”

Phone Buddy volunteer, Lauren Albanese, spoke highly about his participation when he said, “It has been such a wonderful privilege to call our seniors and talk “life” with them thinking I could change something, but getting to know and talk to our seniors has changed me. They are friends on the other end of the phone. They help me as much as I help them. The senior center is really an extended family. Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, says Proverbs 15:30.”

Those that would like to be added to the Telephone Buddy Program, either as a volunteer to make phone calls or as a senior adult to receive the phone calls, please call the Johnson County Senior Center at 727-8883 and leave a message. Staff will return to work during the week of August 31.