Glenmeadow Renews the Charge Against Social Isolation
Life plan community has trained new volunteers and is recruiting additional companions as well as community members to pair them with
LONGMEADOW—Glenmeadow recently trained seven new volunteers to pair with community members seeking companionship through its Neighbor to Neighbor program, and it continues to seek new volunteers as well as neighbors.
Erin Koebler, director of Community Care at Glenmeadow, said the training that was held mostly virtually in late October was originally scheduled for March, and the life plan community felt it could wait no longer to renew the program and recruitment efforts.
“Older adults can easily become isolated from friends, family, and the community, putting them at risk for health issues and decline in independence,” Koebler said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this already concerning problem, putting many more elders in our midst at risk. We are reinvigorating our program, knowing that residents of the Greater Longmeadow area are so isolated.”
Glenmeadow is committed to combatting social isolation because loneliness can lead to depression, cognitive decline, and major health problems. Through Neighbor to Neighbor, volunteers—most of them older adults themselves—are paired with individuals in Greater Springfield who seek companionship.
Neighbor to Neighbor serves both people living at Glenmeadow and those in their own homes. Funding to launch the work came in 2018 from Greater Springfield Senior Services, Inc. (GSSSI), which provided a $5,000 grant that year. Glenmeadow led development efforts, 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.
In the first year, the funds allowed the recruitment of 30 volunteers and neighbors.
For the past two years, GSSSI has awarded the life plan community a $7,000 grant, and Koebler said Glenmeadow is committed to growing the program through new, creative means. “This year, with no end in sight to the COVID-19 crisis, we intend to expend some of our resources on technology that will make connecting easier for those who participate,” she said.
She noted that few of those who were paired before COVID are meeting live now; many are speaking regularly on the phone instead. Volunteers are sending cards and letters to their neighbors, and vice versa, and volunteers are dropping off baked goods and surprises on porches and back steps.
“We are hoping to create joy through friendship and the building of relationships,” Koebler said.
In late October, Glenmeadow held a training on Zoom and allowed several people who did not feel at risk to join live in a setting that offered social distance.
The trainer spent two hours explaining the basics of isolation and why social interaction is important and also helping volunteers to get comfortable with various situations and challenges they might experience.
Koebler said the training touched on how to establish rapport over the telephone and be an empathetic listener, and the leader also explained that some neighbors could have behavioral, visual, or cognitive impairments. “We prepare people for all the difficult situations they might face and follow up if they have a day with their neighbor when things are challenging,” she said.
Glenmeadow also provides mentorship to volunteers. “That’s a big component,” Koebler said, adding, “We provide support and networking opportunities for the volunteers.”
Call Koebler at 413-567-5977 if you know an older adult who would like to be a neighbor or someone who would like to be trained as a volunteer.
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.