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.