Offshoot of Seniors Centre Without Walls aiming to help break through loneliness in tough times
And it was with that idea that the Friendly Phone Calls program came into existence early in the new year.
Carrying a similar format to the SCWW — connecting seniors who don’t have a chance to get out and about with people with similar interests — Friendly Phone Calls is currently in the process of gathering applications from both seniors and volunteers and setting up future conversations.
“We wanted to have a program where people could get phone calls from volunteers so that they can create those relationships with each other and talk about how life is going,” explained program coordinator Yvette Mitchell.
“We try and match people with similar interests, like gardening or reading. We had a couple seniors who put travelling down as a topic, so they can talk about places they’ve been.
So it’s a pretty cool program to connect people who are basically strangers and create a relationship.”
It all comes out of the SCWW, which has seen an impressive response since their initial launch.
Designed for people over 55, Senior’s Centre Without Walls is completely phone-based and aims to help folks who are feeling lonely and isolated connect and socialize with fellow seniors while taking part in fun and interesting programs.
Having everything run through telephones and smartphones helps make things as accessible as possible for those unfamiliar with computers and technology, said Ronda Wedhorn with SWCC.
“When they call in, it’s like the old party lines where they can listen in and visit, so it’s pretty similar to a conference call,” she explained.
Calls are about 30 to 60 minutes and have 10 to 20 people on each call. Participants can choose the topics and time, and the calls will often feature a guest speaker covering something of interest to older folks.
“We’ve had a number of guest speakers on covering a wide variety of topics, everything from scams to how to use technology, a book club with authors, you name it,” Wedhorn said.
A popular event has been regular arts and crafts call with Christy Schweiger from the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery, where she walks participants through projects step-by-step.
“She instructs them through the telephone and it’s pretty neat, they come up with some pretty nice creations just from listening to her instructions,” Wedhorn said.
Educational activities have also proven popular.
“We’ve had a lot of topics where they can learn new things, and learning is something people do through a whole lifetime,” said Wedhorn. “So our guest speakers try and get a variety of topics, then there are games and trivia and things like ‘you be the judge’ where we go through a court case and they decide the outcome and then we tell them the actual outcome. Neat little things like that, lots of fun and learning.”
And if you’re wondering if it makes a difference in people’s lives, well…
“When we started, we had some seniors that were really depressed and sad and so lonely and didn’t have any support, they were almost in tears,” Wedhorn said. “And after four months of the program, everything has really changed. Everybody is happy and they laugh together and they’ve become a real community through the telephone.”
All that success has led to Friendly Phone Calls, which aims to take a more intimate approach to the same idea.
Focussing more on one-on-one conversations between individuals, both seniors and volunteers fill out an application form listing topics they’re interested in and are matched together from there.
“I think it’s a nice idea for everyone because it’s not just seniors who are feeling isolated right now with the restrictions and being unable to meet people,” Mitchell said.
Calls are one or two times a week and are dependent on individual schedules, both for the senior and volunteers. An initial 20 minute call will help determine compatibility and future plans.
The program is already taking off, too, despite only being active for a week or so — several seniors have already signed on for Friendly Phone Calls and are now waiting for their volunteer match.
“We’re suggesting about 20 minutes so they can have a nice conversation and decide from there if they want to do it once a week or more than that,” Mitchell said.
To sign up, both volunteers and seniors, you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 306-631-4357. A package will be sent out with all the information. A criminal record check is necessary for volunteers in order to make sure everyone involved is kept safe. Once the package is filled out and returned, folks will be matched together and the fun can begin.
For more information on the Seniors Centre Without Walls — including some of the topics and classes and all the details — visit their Facebook page at scwwmoosejaw or their website at www.scwwmoosejaw.com.
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