elderly couple playing chess

Senior Companionship

By Rachel Berry, MiCAFE Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan

According to AARP, more than 42 million Americans ‘identify as being lonely’.  A recent survey of older adults shows that 1 in 4 say that they feel isolated from others at least some of the time, and 1 in 3 say that they do not have regular companionship.

Luckily, there is the Senior Companion Program. According to the Family Service Agency of Mid-Michigan, the Senior Companion Program began nationally in 1974 and locally in 1984.  Of the seniors that volunteer their time, 94% strongly agree that volunteering keeps them active and 92% say that it makes them feel useful.  Those that have benefitted from having a senior companion report having an improved quality of life and having visits assisted with their continued independence.

If you have ever been through times of loneliness and isolation you know that these circumstances can, over time, have serious implications regarding one’s overall health and wellbeing.  These feelings of loneliness can lead to serious health complications such as anxiety, depression, or more serious physical effects such as cardiovascular disease and chronic illness. This can extend further into a loss of appetite and giving up on hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed.

This is where companion care comes into play and it works in a couple of different ways.  In Michigan, we have both the Senior Companion Program and the Foster Grandparent Program in which volunteers 55 years and older can make a difference in the lives of others.  The Senior Companion program allows seniors to serve as advocates to other older adults in need of assistance.  The Foster Grandparent program allows seniors to act as role models and mentors for the younger generations.

When seniors receive the emotional support and friendship, along with help completing household chores, it allows them to remain in the comforts of their own home while still maintaining some semblance of independence. 

Rachel Berry is a member of the Economic Security Team and has been member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since 2021. As a member of the Economic Security Team, Rachel focuses on assisting clients with benefits applications such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid.