Catholic Charities of Oregon has partnered with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon and local parishes to help seniors age in place.
The United States is experiencing enormous growth in its aging population. With this unprecedented increase comes financial, physical health, mental health, and housing concerns for older adults. As communities identify new opportunities to support older adults thriving and aging in place, they turn to existing local organizations, like parishes and Catholic Charities housing programs. These ready-made communities are ideal venues for developing programs that support older adults in a familiar manner.
As we promote new ways to support older adults, Catholic Charities is introducing its new Senior Services Resource Center. The center’s mission is to empower parish and housing communities to help older adults age in place by staying engaged in their communities and creating support systems to meet their needs. Our goal is supporting communities as they establish senior outreach volunteers, navigate older adult resources, and develop fellowship and educational opportunities for older adults. Local parishes have joined our conversation, parishes like St. Cecilia, Holy Redeemer, and St. Philip Neri. We look forward to working with more parishes in the coming months.
A vital part of our resource center is the Friendly Visitor program. Community engagement is a substantial protective factor for older adults. However, not everyone has these needed support systems. Friendly visitors strengthen connections between older adults and their communities by building relationships, advocating, providing companionship, and being an ongoing, supportive presence for older adults.
So what does a Friendly Visitor do? It varies of course, but typical activities involve simply enjoying the company of one another. Playing games, exchanging books, decorating for a holiday, and having a meal together are fun activities, but just showing up each week and enjoying a conversation is so meaningful to an older adult at home. The story below highlights how important a friendly visitor can be in the life of an older person:
Elaine was an active older adult, full of purpose, fellowship, and social support. However, when her husband died, Elaine was without local family. She made the difficult decision to move 1500 miles away to her daughter’s home. Suddenly, she found herself in an unfamiliar world, away from her lifelong friends and activities. She didn’t feel comfortable driving in Oregon, so she quickly became isolated at home.
Two years ago, Elaine received a visit from a friendly visitor through her daughter’s church. The two connected, and through weekly visits of talking, game playing, recipe swapping, and going out for lunch, they became close friends, enriching both lives. Elaine’s friendly visitor, Julie, says “I’ve learned so much from Elaine. Listening to her life stories and her experiences as a wife, mother and nurse has been such a gift for me. I look forward to our time together every week.”
Elaine is now battling a serious illness, and needs the emotional boost from her friendly visitor even more as she grapples with the changes in her health. Recently, she sent Julie a note that read, “Thank you for getting me through another week. Your visits are such a blessing.”
We couldn’t have opened the doors of the Senior Services Resource Center without the help of our generous corporate donors, one being Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, a long-time partner of Catholic Charities. Regence shares more about our partnership and their dedication to supporting initiatives that help our seniors age in place on their blog.
Interested in getting involved? We’re always looking for volunteers. Be a part of a vital community of caring volunteers for older adults. For more information about volunteering or about our new Senior Services Resource Center, please contact us.