Community Care Volunteer Spotlight- Claire Van Loon

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In her weekly friendly visits with four local seniors, Community Care Volunteer Claire Van Lon finds the benefits go both ways.

For three years, Claire Van Loon has been a Community Care friendly visitor to four interesting people in the township. Claire is one of the many volunteers who either call or visit Community Care clients to provide companionable conversation and social interactions for those who may spend lots of time alone or be unable to get out into the community to socialize. The Friendly Visiting Program connects caring volunteers with clients to provide weekly home visits or telephone calls.

So who can benefit from the program? People with mobility issues or challenges getting out of the house to social events may find it helpful to have a regular social connection. Even when someone is well-cared for by family and friends they may feel out of touch with the community and feel lonely especially during the day when family may be away at work. Seniors living alone may also appreciate a regular call just to chat and socialize without the worry or perception of “taking up too much time” of a loved one or caregiver.

As Claire notes, “While not all elderly people have close family ties, my ‘friends’ have all been in constant contact with their very loving families.  So you might wonder why they desire company…it may possibly be that they miss relating to people other than family—people from the ‘outside world’.  I think they know that the weekly conversations are going to be different and perhaps less predictable than with family, but still interesting interactions.”

The focus of the visits is to provide supportive and caring, one-on-one, social interaction. Confidentially is also required, as Claire explains, “Privacy is really important. I never repeat things that are shared between me and my friend.”

The benefits are not one-sided in this relationship; the volunteers making friendly visits or calls also gain much from their interactions. Social interaction and connections to others has been proven to contribute to one’s well-being and confidence, so the visits and calls really enrich the lives of both sides of the relationship.

“I think it is important as we age to feel a sense of self-worth—a sense that we have something to offer to others, explains Clair. Reflection has been a big part of the conversations that I have had with my ‘friends’. And I think as they share their past experiences with me they feel good about themselves and perhaps feel more content.”

When asked about the important outcomes of this program, Claire added, “Firstly, I am conveying to my ‘friends’ that they have a lot to offer others and should be proud of what has been accomplished in their long and sometimes arduous lives.  Secondly, I am learning much along the way about their early years just prior to the start of my life.  And thirdly, I am realizing more and more that I will be them in a few short years and I hope to be lucky enough to enjoy a friendly visit on a regular basis”

If you would like to find out more about the Friendly Visitor Program or opportunities for volunteering, please contact Millbrook’s Community Care coordinator, Karen Morton at 705-932-2011 or email her at millofc@commcareptbo.org. The Millbrook Community Care office is located at 22 King Street East, Millbrook and is open 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

By Mary Preston

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