The challenges of Covid-19 were multi-faceted. In addition to physical constraints, the pandemic brought social hindrances as well. We all felt more isolated, but folks that are housebound experienced heightened social isolation.
The NCOA estimates that more than 1/5 of adults in the United States identify as lonely, isolated or both. Social isolation is an invisible threat- some research indicates that loneliness can increase the risk of mortality by 50%.
The isolation we shared posed an opportunity for Store to Door to act as an intermediary to foster community and bring people together. Community-minded folk like Bev got involved with volunteering with Store to Door for the first time.
Bev got involved with Store to Door during the first autumn of the pandemic- September of 2020. She was already working remotely for her company, Umpqua Bank, which encourages employees to volunteer. The newly launched Friendly Caller Program aligned perfectly for Bev, who at the time was experiencing her own family health challenges with her aging mother.
Bev began talking with clients on a weekly basis, calling and building relationships with them as she commuted to and from California to care for her own mother. She reflects on that time, sharing that “a lot of the folks I spoke to [were a] similar age. You get very connected.”
Connection, one of Store to Door’s key values, is an integral part of combatting the social isolation both clients and volunteers have experienced during the pandemic. Families and friendships have been strained due to shutdowns and social distancing. It has become harder for folks to have all their needs met.
“During Covid, I don’t think families intended to not pay attention to family members […] [we] forget how old [our parents] are, and that they need more help. They’re not going to always tell you what they need, ‘cause they don’t want to interrupt your life […] but they’re really lonesome,” Bev says.
Bev finds the Friendly Caller program to be a remedy: “I’ve had one or two [clients] out the door who were just friendly, like I was her best friend … but I’ve had a few […] that are very hesitant … but then you end up connecting … gardening or music, you can always find a connection ... and then you just get really, really close with some of them.”
For Bev, it goes back to relationships and family. She continues to volunteer, because the clients have “become like a family. We share different stories back and forth, how we’re doing check-in different things..” When Bev was going back and forth for her mother’s care, the clients reciprocated the care. During her calls, she expressed that “many were so concerned …they knew of my mom.”
According to a survey conducted by AARP, nearly 40% of adults have a close friend at least 15 years older or younger than them. Bev finds that the relationships she’s established through the Friendly Caller Program parallel the relationships she values with her own family.
Bev says the Friendly Caller Program fosters intergenerational connection. “I just always felt everybody needs somebody. A lot of these folks would become either another grandmother or a foster mother, foster father, mother, brother, uncle… is kind of how I look at it.”
Despite the restrictions of the pandemic easing, social isolation is still a chronic issue for our housebound community. According to the Portland State Institute on Aging, people aged 65+ are the most rapidly growing segment of Portland’s population. The Friendly Caller Program continues to connect Portland metro’s housebound community with caring volunteers-turned companions. This program has been immensely rewarding for both clients and volunteers. 95% of Store to Door clients say they feel more socially connected as a result of our services.
You can help mitigate social isolation by donating to our Stories of Strength Summer Fundraising Campaign or by becoming a Friendly Caller like Bev. Visit our website now to supply life-saving services, or click below to give today!