Glenmeadow Receives Increased Funding to Expand Neighbor to Neighbor Initiative
Program pairs volunteers with older adults who are isolated in the place they call home
LONGMEADOW— Glenmeadow announced it has received a $2,000 increase in grant funding from the Greater Springfield Senior Services, Inc. (GSSSI) to expand a program that helps to reduce the isolation of older adults in the region.
Last year, Glenmeadow launched Neighbor to Neighbor using a $5,000 grant from GSSSI, and, this year, the Springfield organization granted $7,000, allowing for an expansion of the program that serves people living in various community settings in Greater Springfield.
“Even in an institutional setting, people can still be isolated. Even if family members visit,” Glenmeadow President and CEO Anne Thomas said. “Isolation produces other issues. It can lead to depression, cognitive decline, and major health problems.”
Thomas added, “Isolation is an epidemic. It is worldwide. There are new statistics that show there are more deaths from isolation than smoking cigarettes.”
Through the program, people volunteer to visit an older adult who feels isolated. Program facilitators train the volunteers and then pair them with a senior who feels the need for companionship. The program coordinator oversees the matches.
“The key piece is the relationship,” Thomas said. “We want people to build a relationship. Relationships are an antidote to isolation.”
In its first year, Glenmeadow recruited about 30 Neighbor to Neighbor volunteers. This year, with the increased funding, the goal is to double the number served.
To refer an older adult for the program or to become a volunteer, contact Thomas at 567-5977.
“We want people to be on the lookout for individuals who need our help. Referrals are always welcome,” Thomas said. “Being aware that this is a problem and being aware of the scope of the problem is key.”
Raising awareness about isolation for older adults is also a goal, she added. “Talk to your neighbors. Get to know them,” Thomas said. “Our lives are so busy now. Our culture has changed. If you have a neighbor who isn’t picking up the mail or taking out the trash, or you see a car sitting in the driveway for weeks at a time, reach out to them. Let’s go back to living in community again versus everyone living in their own little worlds without connecting with others.”
Glenmeadow resident Merle Ryan was diagnosed with cancer the year the Neighbor to Neighbor program was founded. “What she wanted to do to help her cope was give to someone else,” Thomas said.
Along with other volunteers, Glenmeadow trained Ryan to take part, and then the coordinator paired her with an older adult longing for socialization. Merle built a relationship with that peer, and she said the program helps her, too.
“You don’t realize how much I get back from doing this,” Ryan said. “I’m getting so much out of this relationship with this person. She’s helped me too.”
In launching the program, Glenmeadow took the lead and was assisted by these regional partners: the First Church of Christ, the Longmeadow Adult Center, the Spiritual Services and the Clinical Pastoral Education Department at Baystate Medical Center, and Temple Beth El.
“We’re always better off with good minds around the table,” Thomas said, noting that each of the grant partners has made significant contributions. “No one organization or person has all the answers. We learn from each other. We each bring a certain expertise to the table.”
Glenmeadow is a nonprofit life plan community—formerly known as a retirement community—and it has a mission to serve seniors in the Greater Springfield region, whether they live on the Longmeadow campus or in their own homes.
Established in 1884, Glenmeadow is an accredited life plan community; it provides independent and assisted living at its campus at 24 Tabor Crossing in Longmeadow and expanded Glenmeadow at Home services throughout greater Springfield.
To learn more about Glenmeadow and its history and offerings, visit www.glenmeadow.org.
In the 1800s, elderly individuals without family or means were sent to live at what was called “the poor farm.” In 1884, a group of civic leaders raised funds among themselves and other area families and purchased a house on Main Street in Springfield’s south end, establishing The Springfield Home for Aged Women. Quickly outgrowing that house, land was purchased on the corner of Chestnut and Carew streets, where a new home was constructed and opened in 1900. In 1960, the name was changed to Chestnut Knoll, and, in 1992, it began to admit men.
In 1993, the organization purchased a 23-acre parcel in Longmeadow to build a new community that would provide both independent living and assisted living in one building with various common areas. This was a new concept known as a continuing care retirement community. Existing residents from the old Chestnut Knoll property were moved to the new campus in 1997. Shortly after the move, the board voted to change its legal name to Glenmeadow to coincide with the name being used by the developer of the property.
Continuing care retirement communities are now referred to as life plan communities, responding to the needs of the aging population with new opportunities for care, plus creative, educational and personal exploration. Glenmeadow offerings, which include everything from senior living options and handyman services to personal care and travel programs, are provided at its Longmeadow campus and across the region through Glenmeadow at Home. Glenmeadow strives to fulfill its mission of nurturing the whole person in mind, body, and spirit.