Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly forms friendships between older adults and volunteers.
As we all grow older, we prepare ourselves for the day when the roles between parent and child reverse themselves. From finding them assisted living to keeping them company in what might otherwise feel like a very isolated period in life, children typically become the caregivers of the ones who once cared for us. But for seniors who never had children, don’t live nearby, or aren’t in communication with them, the isolation can be nearly inescapable. Which is why organizations like Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly are working extra hard to spread the love to those who need it most.
Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly is a nonprofit that connects older adults in the Twin Cities with volunteers to prevent and alleviate isolation and loneliness. With nearly 1,000 program participants each year, volunteers offer home visits, advocacy, and social activities to seniors who are in need of some company. In 2018, volunteers provided 15,050 hours of service and 4,172 home visits to isolated seniors.
According to LBFE data, more than 230,000 people over the age of 65 currently reside in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Of these, about 17 percent—or 39,000 people—live alone or lack the social support of family and friends, which is critical to physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
LBFE offers a variety of companionship programs based on the specific needs of each participant. The Visiting Companions program matches elders one-to-one with volunteers who visit and establish a friendship to make the senior feel connected and valued. Companions are matched based on shared interests and location. The Phone Companions program connects isolated seniors with volunteers who regularly talk on the phone. The Friendship and Flowers program provides isolated, homebound seniors and nursing home residents with short visits from volunteers on the third Saturday of the month. Volunteers bring gift bags of fresh flowers and cookies provided by LBFE, and it is a very popular family volunteering opportunity. Lastly, LBFE offers several different social engagement opportunities including bingo, craft groups, holiday events, and “Let’s Do Lunch Café” for GLBT seniors and allies. All of these services are free for participants.
LBFE Director of Communications and Marketing LuAnne Speeter says GLBT people comprise a significant number of LBFE’s programs, and LGBTQ participants can request to be matched with a volunteer who is also GLBT.
“Since 2015, LBFE has partnered with Prime Timers MSP in hosting our monthly Let’s Do Lunch Café. The Café started through a PFund grant as an opportunity for older LGBTQ community members and allies to come together to share a lunch ‘on the house’ and learn about community services and self-advocacy. It’s held each fourth Friday of the month at LBFE in Minneapolis in an atmosphere that’s relaxed and welcoming while helping LGBTQ seniors stay socially engaged and reduce the risk of isolation,” Speeter says. “Let’s Do Lunch Café has been so successful that it has expanded into St. Paul with lunches held every second Tuesday at the Wilder Community Center for Aging.”
People can get involved with LBFE by volunteering, donating or sponsoring an event, and referring seniors to the program. In addition to volunteer roles in the different visitation programs, people can also volunteer for behind-the-scenes roles in office and program assistance, social media, and photography. New volunteers must complete and online volunteer application and background check in addition to attending a two-hour orientation session. For donations and sponsorships, LBFE invites people to participate in one of its three upcoming fundraisers: the Friends for Life Lunch on March 7, Wingo (wine tasting and bingo) on June 6, and the Not Alone 4K on Sept. 29.
LBFE welcomes self-referrals as well as referrals from those who know an isolated or lonely person over the age of 65. To volunteer, donate, or make a referral, call 612-721-1400 or visit littlebrothersmn.org.
Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly
1845 E. Lake St.