PCA's Senior Companion Program combats social isolation for older adults

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Thursday, January 25, 2024
PCA's Senior Companion Program combats social isolation for older adults
Art of Aging: Philadelphia Corporation for Aging's Senior Companion Program combats social isolation for older adults

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Twice a week, Deborah Washington spends a few hours with 89-year-old Masa Hunley in her Germantown apartment.

They do everyday things, but they do them together.

Paid Sponsor Partnership: Philadelphia Corporation for Aging

"I had retired from the post office and just really looking to keep serving my community," says Washington, a volunteer for PCA's Senior Companion Program. "This is my third year of being with her."

The two were connected through Philadelphia Corporation for Aging's Senior Companion Program.

Stephen Merrill, RN is the Health Promotion Nurse Supervisor for Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. He says the senior companion program "matches volunteers in the community with other seniors" to ensure they'll have someone who is going to visit them regularly.

He says many of the older adults in the program just need "a friend in the community."

"Things I wouldn't be able to do by myself, she helps me," says Hunley, a participant in PCA's Senior Companion Program.

"Within their apartment, they can do some light meal prep with them. They can also accompany them out to appointments," says Merrill. "They can help provide socialization."

Hunley says when you live by yourself all the time, "you get lonely."

"I feel like she's my friend," Hunley says of Washington. "We watch TV together sometimes."

"We have about 40 companions presently who are participating in the program," says Merrill.

Senior Companions need to be age 55 or older, commit to 20 hours per week and pass a criminal background check.

Washington says volunteers get a little stipend, but "it's got to be in your heart."

"I'm in it for the outcome, not the income," she says. "Giving is living."

"She is very nice. We get along very good," says Hunley of Washington.

"There's a dedication that I've seen that is amazing," says Merrill of the program volunteers.

"If this was my grandmom, or my mother, I would want somebody to be able to be around in their home that they can trust to help them," says Washington. "It's just a great program. I love it."

If you or someone you know could benefit from the Senior Companion Program, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 or visit PCACares.org.

For more information:

Philadelphia Corporation for Aging: https://www.pcacares.org/

Senior Companion Program: https://www.pcacares.org/services/community-connection/senior-companion-program/

PCA Helpline: https://www.pcacares.org/contact-us/