Up until a few months ago, Melonie Unger and Shirley Beckeman did not know each other.
Unger, a volunteer with InterFaith Works of CNY’s new One to One program, visits Beckeman every Wednesday at the Nottingham senior living community.
“It just changes the whole day, the whole week, just to count on her coming,” Beckeman shared.
One to One was created so that more seniors in nursing homes would have regular visitors.
“It’s really important because our aging population is increasing in numbers, and that’s only going to continue to rise as the Baby Boomers enter retirement in the next 10 years,” said Toma Tracy, InterFaith Works of CNY senior services coordinator. “It’s estimated that 60 percent of nursing home residents do not have a regular visitor. In Onondaga county that’s twenty eight hundred residents.”
The AARP recently labeled isolation among older adults a “growing health epidemic.”
Accoring to the AARP, seniors in nursing homes face increased risk of isolation and become vulnerable to negative health outcomes, including physical decline, mental health issues and premature death.
One to One is directly addressing this epidemic, according to Danielle Gill, Central New York Community Foundation Inc.’s director of community grant making.
“We know loneliness and isolation is on the rise, and what we liked about the One to one program is that it takes a very individualized approach with combating that isolation,” Gill shared.
Funding the one to one program was made possible by the donations the community makes to the CNYCF.
It’s only one of 17 new programs the team here has approved.
All of the programs totaling just under $700,000 to make a direct impact here in syracuse and beyond.
The program is not only helping people like Shirley Beckeman, it’s making a difference for its volunteers.
“It’s a blessing to me as well,” said Melonie Unger, One to One Volunteer. “Just to see the difference you can make in someone’s life is very enriching to me too. We have so much in common that we’ve come to know. Our paths have probably crossed so many times that we’ve a wonderful friendship.”
For more information about One to One and other InterFaith Works of CNY programs, click here.