Federally Funded Companions Keep Seniors Connected To Their Neighbors


The Senior Companions program is a federally funded program in all 50 states which connects isolated senior with a friendly weekly visit from a volunteer. Volunteers must be at least 55 years old and be able to serve between 15 and 40 hours per week. Senior Companions addresses loneliness which may arise from isolation. To read about the Senior Companion program in action in Maine, follow our link to NPR.org.

Federally Funded Companions Keep Seniors Connected To Their Neighbors

By Patty White | NPR.org

Isolation is an issue for many seniors, especially in rural places. It can lead to loneliness, which many experts consider a serious public health issue.

That’s where Kitty Gee comes in.

Gee, a spry 87-year-old lives in western Maine, which is known for having picturesque rural mountain landscapes and an aging population. Five years ago, she decided to join a federal grant program that combats senior loneliness the old fashioned way: by sending visitors door to door.

The Senior Companions program has operated for decades in nearly every state, connecting isolated seniors to a friendly visitor every week. To qualify as a senior companion, volunteers must be at least 55 years old and serve between 15 and 40 hours a week.

The program is popular in Gee’s home state, where the population is projected to have more senior citizens than young people by 2020. Around 600 seniors receive the service in Maine, and more than 300 are on the waitlist.

As a senior companion, Gee makes house calls to seven clients each week — collectively totaling to around 25 hours.

She gets a federal stipend of $2.65 an hour, but also gains something priceless from the visits: a purpose.

She decided to join the program after her husband died, and she needed something meaningful to invest her time.

“So I said, this will get me out among people, I’ll have someone to talk to, and maybe I’ll do some good,” Gee told Maine Public Radio.

One of the clients she visits is 74-year-old Wanetta Nurse, who lives in Farmington, Maine. Though Nurse is 13 years Gee’s junior, she has health issues that make it hard for her to walk, or even to pursue former hobbies like knitting and sewing. In a recent visit, Gee greeted Nurse, saying, “How’s my best girl today? You doin’ good, eh? Looking pretty as always.” Continue Reading

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