Senior Companions: The Present of Presence
“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
– Robin Sharma
Giving is the best present we can give to ourselves. And, though the rewards are great, giving something as precious as time can be challenging. Personal wisdom gained over time, lessons that each of us had to take time to learn, is perhaps our most precious asset. Imagine then, the incredible wealth of knowledge in the possession of our senior citizens.
A recently expanded program supported by Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay, called Senior Companion, aims to make good use of lifetimes of wisdom while easing the loneliness that sometimes comes with it. Program Coordinator Rasheera Rivas explains, “Volunteers aged 18 and up are matched with a senior citizen client. The relationship usually begins by getting to know one another by phone, with the expectation of the volunteer to be available one to two times per week, for a total of about five hours.” Some relationships, says Rivas, are only by phone, but “depending on the volunteer and the client, they may include helping the senior with errands, or just sitting and sharing conversation over a cup of coffee.”
If the senior-volunteer relationship is positive, the directions to the volunteer are simple: “Be understanding, show compassion, care, be patient, and a good listener.” But this is far from a one-way street.
Life teaches us through love, pain, perseverance, and joy. All these lessons and more have been experienced many times over by the recipient senior citizen client. Sharing stories can benefit both volunteer and client in a positive, supporting show of friendship.
“The program is relatively new in Pinellas, and we have a small office with information available in the Sunshine Center in downtown St. Petersburg,” said Rasheera. “Interested parties can get information and decide if volunteering in the program is right for them.”
Volunteers can engage at their own comfort level and will likely feel appreciated right away. Seniors may have limited mobility to join in community gatherings, or perhaps have smaller social circles. These friendships can be a lifeline and, potentially, can fulfill the loneliness felt by both parties. Friendships flourish in the program.
One gentleman currently paired with a volunteer is Secundino Trinidad. He’s forged a new friendship with Juan Garrido, one they both treasure. Secundino’s son says, “Seniors in Service is a wonderful organization. They provide companionship services for my dad, and he couldn’t be happier. My father’s companion checks in with me and my dad over the phone and in person and helps with some errands. He is patient and kind, just an awesome person, and this is an important service for the elderly. My dad considers Juan his friend. Two thumbs up for Seniors in Service.”
At any age it’s easy to be overwhelmed with life. But if we slow down, take a breath, and look for ways to give back – of our time and our life’s wisdom – we can reduce stress and remember what is most important in life. You’re never too old – or too young – to make a new friend, and to make a true difference in someone’s life.
If you’d like to participate, visit or call the Sunshine Center, 330 5th Street North, 727-893-7101, or find more online at seniorsinservice.org/volunteer/senior-companion.