A new initiative in Champaign County aimed at addressing and easing social isolation experienced by older adults has recruited more than 200 volunteers and is ready to launch.
The Friendly Callers program was in the process of being rolled out to the Champaign-Urbana community when the Covid-19 crisis unfolded. In light of the social distancing and other measures put into place to protect older adults, reducing social isolation for older adults is more important that ever.
The program is now seeking every avenue possible to reach its primary audience – older adults – and their caregivers.
“It’s more important than ever, now that every one is being told to self isolate,” said Julie Schubach, Counseling & Advocacy Manager at Family Service Senior Resource Center. “It’s been a process but we’re at a point where we’re ready.”
Family Service of Champaign and OSF-Heart of Mary are collaborating on launching and managing the program.
Older adults who enroll in the program will have top options for calls. One way they can engage is via a social call that can be anywhere between five and 20 minutes, up to twice per week. The other option –what is called a “reassurance” call — happens daily for five minutes, Monday through Friday.
All calls will take place on weekdays, for now.
“We realize that leaving weekends open is not ideal,” she said. “At this point we want a staff member available and dedicated to checking in with all the volunteers when they make their calls.”
Schubach said the program will evaluated its effectiveness through various tools. One is by having its participants — volunteers as well as the older adults — take a loneliness assessment at the beginning of the program and throughout its duration.
“At this point, reaching out will have the same benefits as receiving the call,” she said. “Anyone with a compassionate heart could reach out and make a difference.”
Seniors and Older Adults: how to get registered with the program
This program is a free service to Champaign County residents age 60 years or older. Individuals may be self-referred or may be referred to the service by others. It is a voluntary program and can be ended at any point. To get enrolled, contact Family Service at 217-352-5100.
How to volunteer
Looking to volunteer? There is a need for seniors and older adults to volunteer to make these calls, so those who are socially isolated can speak with a peer. Those interested can contact Family Service at 217-352-5100.