FriendshipWorks has expanded its Friendly Visiting program to Somerville and Cambridge.
“Serving older adults in these areas is something we’ve been requested to do for quite a while. So we’re pleased to partner with Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services, which gives us the capacity to do so,” said Janet Seckel-Cerrotti, executive director of FriendshipWorks.
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services knew the importance of connecting older adults with volunteers for long-term friendships, so SCES reached out to FriendshipWorks for their expertise to grow the New Friends program with their Friendly Visiting model. This collaboration allows SCES and FriendshipWorks to increase reach and services to people ages 60 and older in these neighborhoods.
“Isolation and loneliness impact many older adults and there’s a growing body of research that indicates these things are bad for your health,” said Colleen Morrissey, director of volunteers at SCES. “The pandemic has created even more need for resources that help our older neighbors stay connected, so we are thrilled this partnership will help us to reach more people in Cambridge and Somerville.”
Since 1984, FriendshipWorks, a volunteer-driven, Boston nonprofit has been matching volunteers to older adults for connection, friendship and assistance in Boston and Brookline. Two years ago, FriendshipWorks was invited by the city of Newton’s Council on Aging to expand their Friendly Visiting and Medical Escort programs in Newton and is enjoying its third year working with Newton.
Kara Jeter, Friendly Visiting coordinator for Somerville/Cambridge, noted that since the summer, the Friendly Visiting program has already made many matches between volunteers and older adults. “People who knew of, or read about FriendshipWorks, have been delighted that we are expanding the services, and are glad to have a new friend during this time,” she said. “It’s been an important and positive step in an otherwise challenging year and FriendshipWorks is happy to be here.
In 2019, due to FriendshipWorks’ 650 volunteers, older adults were able to experience new friendships; be escorted to attend medical appointments; receive assistance with tasks; and enjoy music and art, and the love of a pet. During the pandemic, their programs pivoted to phone and online connection; grocery deliveries; coordinated card-making and letter-writing initiatives; PetPals videos and outdoor MusicWorks concerts.
“Ultimately, we are a matching service,” said Seckel-Cerrotti. “By matching elders, ages 60-105, with volunteers ages 18 to 85, from all faiths and all backgrounds, FriendshipWorks brings friendship, support and connection to older adults and their volunteers. This contributes to health, meaning and comfort for people across the generations in more communities.”