Catholic Charities partners with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon to launch the Senior Services Resource Center’s Friendly Visitor Program.
The United States is experiencing enormous growth in its aging population, a surge that affects all aspects of community life. With this unprecedented increase comes significant financial, physical health, mental health, and housing concerns for older adults. New opportunities to address these needs outside of traditional medical models must be developed. Communities will undoubtedly rely on volunteers and existing organizations as they look to support older members of their communities. As trusted organizations for many older adults, Parishes are ideal venues for developing programs that support older adults. Likewise, Catholic Charities’ housing programs offer ready-made communities, complete with resident service coordinators. This unique program addresses the needs of older adult resident in a familiar and supportive manner.
As we look for innovative ways to address older adult concerns, Catholic Charities is introducing its new Senior Services Resource Center. This center is an expansion of a previous successful pilot program, the Senior Priest Navigator program, which served as a support resource for the 60+ senior diocesan priests in the Archdiocese of Portland, connecting aging priests to resources through personal visits by parish nurses. The mission of the Senior Services Resource Center is to empower parish and housing communities to assist older adults with their desire to age in place by staying engaged in their communities and creating support systems to meet their needs.
As the coordinator of the new resource center, I have seen firsthand how isolation can adversely affect an older adult. In my previous work at the parish level, I developed a senior care ministry to alleviate the loneliness of seniors alone at home through friendly visits, while also addressing the increasing needs older adults have to remain independent in their homes. Home upkeep, errands, transportation, and light housework are common concerns for seniors. Likewise, fellowship and volunteer opportunities, as well as educational workshops on aging issues, are frequently requested by older adults to help them stay active and connected to their communities. In my parish work, I had the fortunate vantage point of not only seeing the positive impact programs and volunteers had on seniors’ quality of life, but also on the incredible impact visits with older adults had on the volunteers. Many caring bonds were formed, with seniors enjoying a stronger connection to their parishes and communities.
A vital part of our Senior Services Resource Center is the Friendly Visitor program. Experience and research tells us that seniors who have connections to others and their community enjoy better mental and physical health and recover quicker when they do have a medical issue. Community engagement is a substantial protective factor for older adults; however, not everyone has these valuable support systems. Friendly visitors build strong connections between older adults and their communities by facilitating relationships among community members, advocating, providing companionship and conversation, and providing ongoing, supportive presence for participants.
The Senior Services Resource Center helps parishes and housing communities develop their own senior programs that reflect the needs, wishes and culture of their communities. Our goal is to provide support to leaders in establishing, training, supervising and maintaining senior outreach volunteers, with the foundation of the program involving friendly visitors to seniors in private homes. In addition to friendly visitors, the resource center senior may help communities navigate older adult resources, establish volunteer programs in home upkeep, errands and light housework, as well as develop fellowship and aging related educational opportunities; depending on the needs of seniors in a particular parish. At the end of our first year, the center’s goal is to have established senior care programs in 3-5 parishes and 2 Catholic Charities housing programs.
We couldn’t have opened the doors of the Senior Services Resource Center without the help of our generous corporate donors. One I’d like to call-out today is Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, a long-time partner of Catholic Charities, whose support ensures that we can expand our parish-based senior care ministries, as well as our older adult housing programs, and improve the quality of life for all Oregonians. Regence shares more about our partnership and their dedication to supporting initiatives that help our seniors age in place on their recent blog post.
Interested in getting involved? We’re always looking for volunteers. Be a part of a vital community of caring volunteers for older adults, helping them stay engaged in their communities and age with dignity, purpose and care. For more information about volunteering or about our new Senior Services Resource Center, please contact Jennifer Mirek, Senior Services Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (503) 961-4379.