TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The pandemic has caused most people to feel isolated at times, but it seems to be affecting senior citizens much more in terms of their mental health.
The College of Southern Idaho's Office on Aging has been helping seniors throughout the pandemic to connect them with whatever services they may need. Through their work, they have been able to see how much the pandemic has impacted the senior population.
Many have been feeling depressed and are experiencing anxiety due to the amount of time they've spent in isolation and not being able to leave their homes.
“To be so isolated, home and alone, isolated is just a scary thing and to never have a conversation, ” says Shawna Waskom, PIO/Contract Manager for the Office on Aging.
To help combat this, the Office on Aging has started a Friendly Callers Program. Two volunteers are calling nearly 50 people biweekly or monthly to provide them with a social outlet during the pandemic.
“A lot of it is just conversations about 'how are you doing?' 'Tell me about yourself.' Things like that that may be of interest to the participant. So Friendly Calling really is that term, we want them to feel like they have a friend there for them,” explains JoAnn Medine, the Friendly Callers Program Coordinator.
While the focus is on socially engaging with the senior population, the program can be beneficial in other ways for users, like meeting some of their needs.
“Also would like someone to come in and help cook, stay for dinner, fix a little breakfast or something, and with that information relayed back, we can then go back and say 'here some resources.' Even though our office may not provide a specific service for that, we at least have a connection with other services,” says Medine.
The staff says they feel rewarded to have the chance to provide this outlet for individuals who are in need of some form of social interaction.
"I've been able to make some of the calls and visit with some of the participants," says Medine. "There is just such an appreciation to know that there is someone else out there who is aware of them, who cares for them, and they're not alone."
The program is still finding its footing and officials hope to get the word out to spread more awareness for seniors to sign up. They also hope to gain several more volunteers to help with making calls.
Whether you're looking to volunteer or sign up to receive calls, call the Office on Aging directly at 208-736-2122 or click here.