Local nonprofit extends services to help isolated seniors

Mar 30, 2020

For nearly three years, Coastal Neighbors Network has helped seniors in Dartmouth remain in their own homes as they age. 

Now, as more seniors shelter in place to avoid coronavirus, the non-profit is expanding its volunteer program to connect with any elderly residents in need through regular phone calls.

“Little things like that go a long way,” executive director Andy Pollock said. “Socialization is really important for older folks.”

Coastal Neighbors is part of a national movement built on the notion that local groups, designed and organized largely by seniors, can provide shared services that help people age where and how they like through services such as transportation, light home chores such as changing light bulbs, and grocery shopping.

As a safety precaution, the network is limiting its volunteers, or “buddies,” to make phone calls, do grocery runs, and inform residents which places in town offer delivery services. Pollock is also trying to implement a “virtual coffee house” for seniors to meet up.

“We’re just trying to keep our members as connected as possible,” he said.

83-year-old Anne Whitney of Dartmouth said that she loves these calls, as they help her to feel more connected in a time of isolation.

“It’s a real psychological boost,” Whitney said. “The more human contact you can make, the better off you are.”

Whitney regularly stays in touch with her “buddy,” Laura Hunt, who went to school with one of her daughters. Usually, these calls last around 15 minutes, but they both enjoy being able to learn more about what their family members are up to.

“We’ve known each other for such a long time, but have never really connected this deeply before,” Hunt said. “It’s been pretty neat, actually.”