September 17-23, 2014

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Senior Companions Celebrate 25 years

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Senior Companion Program (SCP) in Philadelphia. This federally funded stipend program serves a dual purpose: to create volunteer opportunities for low-income persons aged 55 and older and to provide one-to-one assistance and companionship for frail older adults.

Since the program began 25 years ago, more than 6,500 seniors have received service and hundreds of local seniors have volunteered. In the last year alone, Senior Companions contributed more than 58,500 hours of service on behalf of 190 consumers. On September 19, 67 current volunteers, who range from 55 to 88 years of age, will be honored at a luncheon hosted by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). 

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Elder Care

Companions help brighten lives

Evelyn Riley and Ernestine White, both 74, have developed quite a rapport in the two years they have known each other. Riley is homebound as a result of multiple chronic health conditions. White is her Senior Companion, who visits 20 hours each week, socializing with her and assisting with small tasks. Both say they might be sitting home alone, were it not for the other.

Riley is a participant in the In-Home Support Program (IHSP) intended to assist her in remaining safely at home.

“I’ve got a bad heart, high blood pressure, arthritis, slight dementia, and I’m bipolar,” Riley says. White helps her with light meal preparation, running errands, and accompanies her on outings and tomedical appointments. Most importantly, White’s companionship reduces the isolation Riley might otherwise experience “being homebound with no one to talk to,” as Riley puts it.

“Ernestine goes with me for shopping and to pay bills because I can’t walk by myself. Sometimes we go out on the plaza nearby and just sit and talk,” Riley explains “She’s an all-around help.

The Senior Companion Program (SCP) is one of three service programs for older adults sponsored by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service. Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) oversees the program in Philadelphia, working with 20 nonprofit organizations, including the five senior centers administering IHSP, to identify homebound elderly who could benefit by having a companion. Riley and White were matched through the IHSP for North Central Philadelphia administered by North City Congress at the North Broad Street Senior Center. 

In addition to IHSP consumers, Senior Companions work with homebound older adults identified by senior apartment buildings and by other social service organizations, according to Kimberley Johnson, PCA manager for the program.

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Elder Care

Help when it's needed

The In-Home Support Program (IHSP), administered through five senior centers in different areas of the city, provides early intervention and preventive services to assist eligible older adults, age 60-plus, on their way back to independence. Services, such as personal care, may be provided for four weeks for individuals who are in a period of recovery from a medical condition, or other circumstances for which assistance is needed.

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