Senior service providers are looking to expand programs that address social isolation during the pandemic, including volunteer models like Friendly Calls.

While the concept of Friendly Calls is simple – neighbors phone neighbors for short, structured conversations – there are many intricacies involved in effectively organizing and guiding these volunteer models.

To help, the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), Association on Aging in New York (AgingNY), and DOROT have partnered to Friendly Calls Volunteer Handbook and training videos to expand the development and growth of these outreach programs at the local level.

Regional Agencies on Aging (AAA) and other community service partners for aging are encouraged to use these training materials in developing or improving friendly call programs in their communities using standardized best practices.

NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said: “Social isolation remains a serious public health problem in the pandemic, contributing to depression, poor health care outcomes and increased death rates in some cases. The more than 20 programs of NYSOFA’s base include nutrition, transportation, personal care, social day care, and other services that all address social isolation at the local level while simultaneously providing lifesaving support and assistance.NYSOFA has also deployed several pioneering new solutions aimed at social isolation, from high-tech virtual platforms to grassroots outreach efforts that channel the carefully guided goodwill and kindness of neighbors helping neighbors, which is why this Friendly Calls project is so powerful.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said“This collaboration with the New York State Office of Aging and its partners advances health equity efforts and enhances NYSOFA’s existing programs that address loneliness and social isolation in through their statewide Aging Network.The Friendly Calls program will increase access to meaningful one-on-one conversations for many people who can benefit from greater social connectedness to positively impact health and life quality.

Becky Preve, executive director of AgingNY, said“The pandemic has highlighted longstanding concerns about social isolation and loneliness among older populations. Programs that offer ongoing support and contact through volunteers are paramount in addressing social isolation. These programs have significant benefits for both the volunteer and the senior.We are delighted to partner with NYSOFA, DOH and DOROT for subject matter expertise in creating the resources needed to improve and expand these programs among service providers. aging.

Ali Hodin-Baier, Director of Programs at DOROT, said“We thank NYSOFA and the New York Association on Aging for recognizing DOROT’s expertise and seeking our guidance in developing training manuals and videos to help agencies implement the new state friendly calling program. The Friendly Calls program is based on DOROT’s highly successful Caring Calls model, which has brought together thousands of volunteers and seniors across the country to make meaningful social connections over the phone. We know this is life changing for people experiencing social isolation and loneliness during the pandemic.

How it works

The Friendly Calls program is overseen by a county Office for Aging/AAA or other social service organization. It is intended to reach people who live alone, are isolated or express an interest in some type of social connection. Participants who meet these criteria are assigned to a volunteer who calls them weekly for conversations of approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

Volunteers use a tracking form to log calls. They report to an AAA program manager or sponsoring agency who can help address any concerns that may arise, particularly if any of the conversations reveal a need for additional support services, such as lack of food or unsafe housing conditions. Volunteers are given sample scripts and are also trained on how to hold engaging conversations, discuss meaningful and appropriate topics, and set boundaries.

This new training program was developed with support from the federal Building Resilient Inclusive Communities (BRIC) project, which is designed to help states and community organizations improve safe access to physical activity, promote healthy eating improving nutritional security and reducing social isolation. and loneliness.

Friendly Calls is part of a multi-pronged effort by NYSOFA to address social isolation, which the US Surgeon General has declared a “global epidemic.” According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, social isolation generates $6.7 billion in additional Medicare-related spending annually. The health consequences of loneliness and isolation are equivalent to smoking almost a pack of cigarettes a day.

Acquire help

If you or an older person in your life need help or feel isolated, please contact the NY Connects Hotline at 1-800-342-9871 for one-stop access to free, objective, and comprehensive information and support. at local level. You can also contact your county office for aging by using NYSOFA’s online directory.

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