I spoke with Nicola Williams, program coordinator for Empowerline’s One2One Telephone Reassurance Program. She shared detailed information about the new program addressing social isolation and loneliness in older adults.
Megan: What is the overall goal of the One2One Program?
Nicola: The goal of the program is to decrease social isolation and loneliness by providing telephone contact with trained volunteers, share resources, information, and referrals with clients who express need. It also aims to provide a sense of well-being through one on one communication with another caring individual.
M: How does it work?
N: One2One is an outreach program that utilizes volunteers to help support at-risk adults over the age of 60, persons with disabilities, persons who typically live alone, persons who are homebound, and persons who have little or no caregiver support.
Once a volunteer has completed training and all the onboarding processes, he/she
is paired with a client. The volunteers will then call the client two times every week for at least 15 minutes, as agreed upon by both individuals. The calls involve the volunteer checking on the client to see how he/she is doing.
M: How did the idea for the program come about?
N: Social isolation and loneliness are growing health problems. Two-thirds of adults are suffering from social isolation since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the pandemic, many people go through significant life changes, such as losing a spouse, retirement, and/or various health challenges (e.g., mobility and sensory impairments) that make them more vulnerable to social isolation, loneliness, and their effects.
One of the outcomes of a 2018 Aging Forum hosted by the ARC Aging & Independence Services group on Loneliness, Social Isolation, and Depression was community education on these subjects. The presentation emphasizes that these conditions are not a normal part of aging and provides information on how to recognize and address these conditions and offer resources to help individuals experiencing them.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent safety guidelines and ordinances associated with the pandemic, the risk of experiencing social isolation and loneliness has compounded for older adults. We implemented the One2One Telephone Reassurance program as one way to address this.
M: Why is a program like One2One necessary and important, especially the role it plays during the holiday season?
N: The Fall/Winter seasons and the holidays can be the saddest periods for many older adults. People who used to be available to provide support, such as their friends, church, and family members, are often no longer available, leaving them with little or no support. The One2One Telephone Reassurance program aims to help provide that support and a sense of well-being. Instead of being alone and reminiscing, they will have a caring person to talk to and reassure them.
M: What are the qualifications for volunteers?
N: Volunteers must pass a background check/screening, must participate and complete One2One program training, and enjoy and value conversations with older adults. In addition, volunteers must be able to:
- Use a telephone
- Engage in conversation to ascertain a person’s condition by asking tactful, considerate questions
- Speak patiently, and at times, slowly
- Possess excellent listening skills and be able to draw out the more reluctant client
- Conduct oneself in a professional, cooperative manner with clients and staff
M: What kind of rewards do people get from volunteering for this program?
N: It has been proven time and again that volunteering is beneficial not only to recipients of service, but also to volunteers themselves. Serving as a volunteer provides connection to others, an opportunity to learn about new things, and fulfillment.
Many of our volunteers are older adults or have worked with older adults or have older relatives, and volunteering is personal for them. They see this volunteer opportunity with One2One as a significant contribution to decreasing loneliness and social isolation.
M: What can someone do if they want to receive these weekly phone calls as part of the program? (does this question mean how can some participate as a client?)
N: Anyone interested in participating as a client can call Empowerline at (404) 463-3333 or reach me directly at (470) 378-1447 to sign up or make a referral.
M: What is your favorite part of being involved with One2One?
N: I enjoy all of it: talking to the clients to sign them up for the program and training and preparing volunteers to make the calls.
If you’re interested in either volunteering in the One2One Telephone Reassurance Program or additional volunteering opportunities, visit Empowerline for more information.