‘Just to check in’: Volunteers of America encourages people to keep in touch with their elderly neighbors

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — It is a dangerous time for millions of Americans who are 65 and older.

“Seniors in our community are suffering from isolation, seniors that are perfectly healthy,” said Christie Holderegger, the vice president and chief development and communications officer for Volunteers of America Northern California and Northern Nevada. “But because of their age or maybe some underlying health concerns, they really need to shelter in place more than anybody else. They can’t even go to the grocery store.”

That’s why Volunteers of America in Sacramento has started a phone tree to reach out to seniors.

“So we’ve been making phone calls to seniors and these are seniors that are in our database. They’ve been either donors or volunteers or just concerned citizens,” Holderegger told FOX40.

Holderegger said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’re getting a lot of them saying, ‘Can you call me again next week, just to check in? I’m doing fine but I really love just the visit,’” she said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has also launched a campaign to protect the well-being of older Californians during the pandemic. The state now has a hotline so that the elderly have a one stop shop to have their questions answered and get assistance during the crisis.

The state and others are encouraging people to check in with more than just their relatives but also their neighbors — just as long as they can do so while keeping socially distant.

“They may have a family member that’s bringing groceries but they’re used to going out and doing that for themselves,” Holderegger said. “They’re used to going out for breakfast and meeting their friends. They’re used to going out and playing cards with their friends, and they can’t do any of that.”

Holderegger said her organization has also launched a new spiritual inspiration message platform that has already had about 100 subscribers in the first week.

“It could be a prayer, it could be scripture, it could be a quote,” she explained. “It’s very diverse and we’re welcoming people of all faiths to participate in that.”

It comes as a text message, which can be sent daily or weekly. Holderegger said the goal is to give the elderly spiritual hope during this dark time.

“They’re used to going to church and they’re not able to go to church and see the other people that are part of that community,” Holderegger said. “And so I think it’s more important than ever to be reaching out to seniors and letting them know that we’re here for them.”

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