Growing Red Cross program creates connection for isolated seniors

Topics: Saskatchewan, Community Health
November 09, 2020

Woman holding teacup talking on phoneWhen you drop a stone in water, the ripples radiate in all directions. In a similar fashion, the Red Cross Friendly Phone program begins by forging connections between two people, but the ripple effects of camaraderie and good will can be felt across the community. And it all begins with a simple phone call.
The Red Cross Friendly Phone program pairs volunteers with seniors to provide support and needed referrals to services in the community. The goal of the program is to help seniors stay in their homes longer by reducing feelings of isolation and increasing their health and safety.
The phone version of this offering evolved from the Friendly Visiting program. Launched in November 2019 as a pilot to determine its viability as a phone-based program, it grew significantly over the remainder of the fiscal year. The number of contacts increased by 1,500 per cent from 25 visits in 2018-2019 to 376 calls in 2019-2020.
Among the seniors receiving support is Ruth, who has a visual impairment which makes it challenging to get around. “It brings me companionship, something to look forward to each week,” Ruth said about the program. “Conversation really brightens my day.”
The Red Cross volunteer paired with Ruth is Gwen. She shares the senior's enthusiasm and enjoyment of their time together. She especially enjoys reading to Ruth and notes that the uniqueness of the Friendly Phone program is that it provides valuable connection for both the volunteer and the participant.
As of September 30, 2020, 36 volunteers provided support to 41 seniors during 639 calls.
Program Coordinator Shawna Green expects that with stable funding, the program will just continue to grow in the future.
“Moving to a phone-based outreach program has been incredibly successful,” she said. “Not only are we able to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak without missing a step, but we have been able to help build connections with so many more isolated seniors who need support.”

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Canadian Red Cross 2019-2020 Saskatchewan Report Back to the Community 
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