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New “call a senior” programs are sparking unexpected friendships during quarantine

Older people at risk of social isolation are finding new connections through their phones.

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Every week, Linda Daniels dials the phone numbers of 40 seniors who live around the gentle hills of Lawton, Oklahoma. She talks to them about their families, their pets, their hopes and fears. She’s spoken to one client, who can’t read, nearly every other day since March. “It’s very beneficial for him to know that he’s not by himself. That there are still people out there who are concerned about him,’ says Daniels. “We just want to make sure they have someone to talk to.”

Before the pandemic, Daniels worked as a receptionist at the Center for Creative Living in Lawton’s southwest ward, where community elders gathered for bridge tournaments, movie nights, and tai chi. Its doors are now closed for the safety of the patronage, cutting off a vital social organ for the retiree class. But the center was undeterred; the staff gathered the contact information for those in solitude, and Daniels took it from there. For now, she makes a living by reminding the elders of Lawton that they are not alone.

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“Call a senior” programs are sparking unexpected friendships