For older adults, even daily household tasks can be challenging; weakened strength, memory changes and loss of driver’s licenses often shake seniors’ confidence about living at home. But Sacramento County’s Senior Companion Program helps seniors maintain independence by connecting them with trained volunteers who provide compassionate support.
Senior Companion volunteers make visits to private homes or care facilities, offering a consistent, caring presence. These regular visits help to alleviate loneliness and anxiety, which bolsters the seniors’ confidence about living independently. The Companion also provides respite and eases some of the responsibilities of the spouse or primary care giver of a frail adult. Many served by the program are isolated and do not have family or friends nearby to care for them.
“Since many seniors are isolated and do not have family or friends nearby to help care for them, visiting with a volunteer a few hours a week can really improve a senior’s life and can make the difference between them living independently or moving into a care facility,” said Mark Snaer, Senior Companionship Program Director.
Transportation support is the number one concern for Sacramento area seniors according to a supplemental Needs Assessment Report from a grant provider of the program, Area 4 Agency on Aging. The Companion provides transportation to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments or other errands, and is the senior’s link to the outside world. Currently, 31 volunteers serve 150 seniors each week, and the program is free for seniors 60 years or older, who demonstrate need and do not have access to transportation on a regular basis.
Companionship Program Volunteers must be at least 55 years old, have a low annual income ($1,800 per month if single, or $2,400 for a couple), commit 15 hours per week, not have other regular work, be physically/mentally able to provide quality care and must pass a physical and background check. Senior Companionship volunteers receive an hourly stipend, transportation reimbursement, allowance for meals, and specialized monthly training and oversight from partner agencies.
To inquire about having a Senior Companion or to volunteer and make a difference in seniors’ lives, go to www.scpsacramento.org, or call 916-875-3622.
While most of the funding comes from grants, the Corporation for National and Community Service is its primary source, with organizations like Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, Sutter Health and Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) also helping to fund the program. Running on mostly volunteer efforts, the program is sponsored by the County’s Department of Human Assistance with support from the Department of Health and Human Services. The program operates through eight diverse community partners that assign the companions to their clients: Easter Seals, Eskaton Telephone Reassurance, Health for All, Sacramento Chinese Community Services Center, Sacramento County Adult Services, South County Services, Stanford Settlement, and Sutter PACE. Senior Companions are provided without a fee and each SCP partner has slight differences for eligibility requirements.