Housebound Seniors Find New Friends

Despite the 20-year age gap between them, Herman Roller, 87, and Mel Pownall, 67, never have a lag in their conversation.

"Oh, we've hit it off good," Roller said, beaming at his new friend. The two are part of the Friendly Visitor Program sponsored by Conejo Valley Senior Concerns, in which an elderly housebound person is matched with a volunteer.

The volunteers, who visit for an hour once a week and call between visits, are trained in communication and listening skills.

"We want them to understand that there is no right thing to say to the seniors," said Marilyn Mathews, senior services adviser. "They just need to listen to the seniors talk and be familiar with the aging process."

But Roller and Pownall do more than chat about the weather. Pownall brings a putting green to Roller's Newbury Park house for a little practice.

If it isn't golf, then it's a discussion on the life and letters of St. Paul, the missionary apostle. Pownall is a minister at the Conejo Valley Church of Christ who spent 20 years doing religious work in Italy. While abroad, he traveled to areas where the saint began seven Christian churches in AD 47-49.

Roller is a former Bible school teacher who has bought every book available on the saint. His interest is so keen that he drew a map of St. Paul's journeys.

Pownall said the two men have fun challenging each other on St. Paul and his writings. But Roller said: "There isn't much he doesn't know."

Mathews said Conejo Valley Senior Concerns is searching for volunteers.

"Our volunteers have monthly support meetings where they can come to terms with the process of old age, death and dying. They talk about what has worked well and what hasn't. The nice thing that we see are that relationships are starting to build."

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