Anna’s New Friend Helps Her Get Organized

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Life can get lonely as you age. Which is why CICOA offers the Friendly Visitor program, where volunteers visit seniors in their homes or in health care facilities to offer companionship and encouragement.

“As we age, we don’t always have same level of support and can become isolated,” said Dan Amonett, director of CICOA’s Safe at Home program. “A spouse might have passed away, or friends and family might not stop by as often.”

Anna, 85, is a chatty, social person. She, like many participants, was referred to the program by her CICOA care manager and needed additional stimulation. Dan introduced Anna to her Friendly Visitor, Colleen, and the pair have been a perfect fit since.

“Anna is wonderful!” says Colleen, who visits on Monday evenings and other times through the week. The feeling is mutual.

“I love her,” explains Anna. “She’s so kind and thoughtful. I’m glad she’s in my life.”

Early on, Colleen asked Anna what she would like to do with their time, to which she replied, “Get organized and clean out the clutter!”

In a month, the duo has color-coded and labeled all of the items in her closet. The exercise has been cathartic for Anna.

“If you clean the clutter on the outside, you feel better on the inside,” she said.

Anna’s daughters live out of town, so she looks forward to the visits.

“She makes it easy for me,” said Anna. “She’s never in a hurry and doesn’t worry about the time. She is full of joy and gives freely of herself.”

Colleen isn’t a stranger to working with the elderly. Both of her grandmothers had dementia. She would visit them after school as a student at Carmel High School.

“It was part of my schedule,” said Colleen. “I connected better with people at the home than I did with kids my own age.”

Having worked with or volunteered for the aging for 21 years, Colleen is now a certified activities director and recently completed her Master of Science in Gerontology from the University of Indianapolis. She volunteered for the Way2Go Transportation program while in school and will become a fulltime CICOA care manager in July.

“Loneliness is sad at any age, but especially for older people,” said Colleen. “It’s nice to be able to lift them up.”

The program serves 15 seniors now but is open to more. Volunteers are asked to call and visit regularly. They must be at least 16 years old, pass a criminal background check and generally live close by. CICOA staff also conducts a face-to-face interview. Caring college students and interns, professionals, those who volunteer in other capacities and retirees all fit the bill.

And if Anna has any say, more will come. “I pray we have more people like Colleen.”

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