New friendly caller program to combat social isolation among local seniors

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Before the pandemic, more than 9 million seniors were living in isolation in the United States. Efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 drove that number even higher.

86-year-old Wilbert Brunson says he misses going to church most of all.

“We haven’t been to church in one year as of March 1,” Brunson said. “It’s been really heartbreaking to not to have to go inside of the temple for one year.”

To ease some of that heartbreak, Senior Citizens, Inc. (SCI) is launching a friendly caller pilot program. The nonprofit is looking for volunteers to call local seniors, one hour each week, to make conversation and check-in on both their mental and physical health.

“It’s really a conversation, but it’s a way for them to have that added socialization, and for us to have added ears on how they’re doing,” said SCI President and CEO of Patti Lyons.

The program is funded through a $15,000 grant from Meals on Wheels America’s Caesars Foundation. The money will help train volunteers 18 and over, who pass a background check.

Lyons says they’re looking for people with a couple of key qualities: “Someone that’s a good listener, someone that really likes older adults and just somebody that’s a good chatty Cathy in their own right.”

Scientists have linked social isolation to high blood pressure, heart disease and even death. SCI hopes a friendly voice, like yours, will help local seniors beat the odds. 

For more details on how to volunteer with the program, SCI asks individuals to contact Jamia Bailey at jbailey@seniorcitizens-inc.org or 912-236-0363.

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