Piece of Mind: The help of a Friendly Visitor

Seemingly with each passing day there are more creases around my eyes and, well, elsewhere on my once smooth skin. As though the mirror doesn't do enough to put the lie to my preferred state of denial, there are the unintentional (I think) zingers that fly through the air — like the one I heard the other day from a young colleague. This sweet child suggested I might give an iTunes card that I won fair and square (beating her and the other young'uns handily at an internal contest) to my granddaughter.

Huh? Doesn't my daughter have to have a child in order for me to achieve that status? And, besides that, a more pressing question comes to mind: Does this mean the time and money spent having my hair colored isn't fooling anyone?

I'm not losing sleep over aging. That wouldn't help my appearance at all, right? But, as a bit of an introvert, I do wonder if I'll one day find myself alone, perhaps infirm and without a support system.

Our little city is blessed with many activities that can keep our senior citizens engaged, if they are so inclined. I imagine, though, that a percentage of our elders are not so likely to join in activities, for one reason or another — and particularly if they no longer drive. So I was pleased to learn this week that a free program soon will be offered through the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA to help these residents.

Called the “Friendly Visitor” program, it seeks to match volunteers with seniors in need of the kind of help a friend might offer. According to Nancy Turney, the senior specialist at our Y, this program has been successfully introduced at other YMCAs throughout the nation. I asked her how it was decided to provide it here.

“We have lots of seniors who face loneliness and isolation,” Turney said. “This leads to a downward spiral and eventually can lead to having them placed in convalescent homes because no one is keeping tabs on them.”

She gave me an example of how one Pasadena man was recently helped by a volunteer Friendly Visitor. This man no longer drove, his health was declining, and he found it too difficult to arrange for transportation, so he had stopped trying to set medical appointments. A program volunteer changed that situation, Turney said.

“When he got his Friendly Visitor, his health improved dramatically,” Turney said. Not only did the volunteer help get the man to visit doctors, she also took him to the store and assisted him in making healthy choices for meals.

If you are intrigued, here are the ground rules: Seniors who are interested in having the help of a volunteer must be older than 60, no longer driving, and able to interact socially. Those who need an occasional driver (for medical procedures, etc.) will also be given assistance. Seniors and their volunteers will be matched by shared interests, as much as possible. Let me reiterate to seniors that this program is provided at no cost.

If you'd like to be a Friendly Visitor: The Y is looking for people who are at least 25 years old (although Turney told me younger adults also would be considered) and willing to visit seniors weekly for an hour or longer. Volunteers should plan to make at least a six-month commitment to the program. An interview and screening process is involved.

To learn more about becoming a volunteer, call Turney at (818) 790-0123, ext. 225, or email nturney@ymcafoothills.org, then mark your calendar for 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, and plan to attend the first training session at the Y, 1930 Foothill Blvd. Seniors who would like to be matched with a volunteer should also contact Turney so that once the program is in gear, they can take advantage of it.

With so many of us baby boomers in full (and wrinkling) blossom right now, it's good to know programs like this exist. Now we just have to remember to take advantage of them when the day comes that we need them.

CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. Email her at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World