Throughout our community, thousands of elderly adults are longing for companionship and a chance to get out and experience the world.
In many cases, family caregivers are looking for someone to stay with their loved ones while they go to work and run errands.
The Senior Companion Program, sponsored locally by HANCI, is here to help. Senior companions offer friendly visiting and support for frail, homebound elders and their caregivers. In return, eligible senior companions receive a tax-free hourly stipend.
In some areas, there are enough senior companions to go around. But in other areas, including Lewiston, Porter, Wheatfield and the Town of Niagara, there's a shortage of volunteers, which leaves frail elders and their caregivers waiting for help.
While companions often join the program for the stipend, they stay because they love helping others. Once, when I asked a senior companion why she has stayed with the program for many years, she said, "At this stage of my life, I never thought I'd hear the words ‘I don't know what I'd do without you' again. My client tells me that all the time."
To become a senior companion, a person has to be at least 55 years old and meet federal income guidelines. New senior companions must also be willing to serve at least 15 hours a week.
Anyone who's interested should call the Volunteer Center at HANCI at 285-8224, ext. 217, or send an e-mail to [email protected].
Grand Island residents are also eligible to become senior companions through HANCI if they're willing to volunteer in Niagara County. Otherwise, they should contact the Erie County Senior Companion Program at 335-7200.
HANCI's volunteer programs are funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the New York State Office for the Aging, the Niagara County Office for the Aging, the United Way, and individual donors.