Agency on Aging searching for additional volunteers for Friendly Visiting program
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials from Aroostook Agency on Aging are welcoming folks in the Presque Isle region who would like to provide companionship to isolated or homebound senior citizens.
The agency’s Friendly Visiting program connects volunteers aged 55 or older with senior citizens, many of whom live alone and might not have easy access to social activities. Currently 67 individuals volunteer for the program across Aroostook County, with 10 of those folks in Presque Isle and surrounding towns serving 17 senior citizens.
Friendly Visiting is one component of Aroostook Agency on Aging’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. Marge Yeager, manager for the Aroostook RSVP, said that the agency’s new main office location on Main Street in Presque Isle has helped increase visibility and awareness of the agency’s programs. She noted that the agency could easily accept at least 10 new volunteers for Friendly Visiting.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls from people who have heard about the program and referrals from social workers,” Yeager said. “We have also heard from adult children who live out of state and are unable to visit their parents regularly.”
Many volunteers, Yeager said, often visit two or three regular clients and can schedule visits or phone calls based on what works best for both them and the clients. While some seniors might like to visit with volunteers several times a week, others could prefer phone calls or monthly outings.
Volunteers, known as “friendly visitors,” are never placed in charge of client’s medical or financial wellbeing and instead focus on enjoyable activities such as going out to lunch, visiting at their home or assisted living apartment, playing games and visiting with friends. Other times they might drive their clients to appointments or assist them with grocery shopping.
Christine McPherson, RSVP volunteer coordinator, also has seen an increased need for Friendly Visitors to meet with caregivers who need respite from caring for a spouse or family member with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Regardless of their reasons for volunteering, she said, Friendly Visiting has been “life-changing” for both the seniors and their new friends.
“Our volunteers often go above and beyond the client’s initial request and develop strong relationships with them,” McPherson said. “For our clients, the Friendly Visitors help them get out and into the community more and meet new people.”
McPherson’s mother Lorette Nicknair, 86, is a resident of Leisure Village Retirement Center in Presque Isle and receives special visits several times a week from Vicki Saucier of Easton. Saucier has volunteered as a Friendly Visitor for the past four months and currently makes visits to two clients at Leisure Village, including Nicknair.
“We’ve become good friends and we like doing things together,” Nicknair said. “I enjoy having her here because it can get lonely when no one is visiting you.”
Saucier said she and Nicknair most often enjoy taking walks together, attending activities and dinners at Leisure Village and monthly church luncheons. She recommends that more people consider becoming a Friendly Visitor.
“I think it benefits the volunteers as much as it does the seniors,” Saucier said. “I like taking the focus off me and putting it on someone else.”
For information about volunteering for Friendly Visiting or other RSVP programs, contact Yeager at (207) 760-6260 or McPherson at (207) 760-6261.