More than 160 volunteers have rallied to the aid of assisted living residents at Golden West, which like many other senior living communities, has implemented a policy of social distancing to protect against COVID-19. The volunteers, with Boulder-based nonprofit Circle of Care and from Golden West’s independent living apartments, call residents every day to ask how they are feeling and what they need.
“We launched this phone call project because we realized we needed to be adaptable and keep senior living residents engaged so they don’t feel isolated. It’s about the capacity of people to reach out to those who are most vulnerable in their community,” said Circle of Care founder Joan Raderman. “If you’re lonely and depressed, you’re not likely to be the first one to reach out to another person, especially this generation, who were taught to keep a stiff upper lip.”
Raderman said her organization, which bears the tagline, “Working to end social isolation through the arts, culture and intergenerational community engagement,” has always had a community development focus: how do we help each other live the best possible life? When COVID-19 hit, Raderman said they had to figure out how to transition from one function to another; in normal times, the group recruits volunteer drivers from the community to take seniors on weekly trips to local cultural venues and events, like the music performances at CU, art galleries, lectures and the theater.
Golden West independent living resident Doris Lederman, a longtime volunteer scheduler for Circle of Care, was involved in setting up the project for residents and volunteers. Some residents in assisted living feel trapped in their apartments, she said, because they aren’t as capable of moving about.
“What’s important about these phone calls is the fact that someone is reaching out to them and they don’t feel like they are alone anymore,” said Lederman. “Assisted living is home to a lot of the people who are not necessarily ambulatory, who use walkers and wheelchairs. They’re captured for the moment in their apartments, so having other people call them and just say, ‘How are you doing? How are things going?’ can really be helpful.”
Lederman got in touch with Stephanie Schuler, Golden West’s director of community services, who supplied the list of assisted living residents who had indicated they would like to be called. According to Raderman, Circle of Care has more than 2,000 volunteers who normally drive and chaperone the group’s regular senior trips, ranging in age from 21 to 75 years old. Those currently serving as volunteer callers say reaching out has been helpful for them as well, not just for the residents, Raderman said.
“Some younger people themselves are struggling right now with social distancing, so it’s actually been good for the people on both sides. We all need each other at this point. Age is not a factor,” said Raderman. “During a situation like this, we all need to adapt to change our function: to make calls, to check in, to be vulnerable.”
Volunteer callers also take requests from those in assisted living to have items left in the lobby for them like games, cards, books, food and other reasonable requests, Lederman said.
“This a very close-knit, caring community here,” Lederman said. “Even though we have hundreds of residents, everybody is extremely involved with everybody else. That’s what first impressed me when I got here from New York City. If someone ever needs something, that need is fulfilled.”
To learn more about Circle of Care, visit their website at: http://www.circleofcareproject.org/