It Only Takes a Few Hours a Day!

Over the past two years, Kathy and Lydia, senior client, have grown so close it feels like a good mother-daughter friendship - with lots of laughter added. Kathy Sweet helps seniors as a volunteer of DARTS through the Senior Companion Program of Lutheran Social Services. Lydia requested a little extra help from DARTS so she could continue living alone in her home. By working together, the two organizations could help these women find each other.

            Kathy, who lives, only a few miles from Lydia, visits her once a week. She calls before her visits to get a list of groceries and supplies to pick up. She helps Lydia prepare meals beyond those provided by Meals on Wheels and takes out the garbage. She walks with Lydia to her garden in the summer filled with dahlias, cucumbers, tomatoes, and raspberries, and helps her buy flowers for her deck. They especially enjoy baking. Lydia measures the ingredients while Kathy operates the mixer. Lydia uses other services to provide house cleaning, laundry, and personal care..

            Volunteering has become very rewarding for Kathy. She assists five senior women, which takes about ten hours each week. She says, "People need help. I'm available, so why not get out and meet people and feel useful? Everyone is so appreciative." She lost her mom at a young age. After caring for her stepfather before he died, and then retiring from her job as an Administrative Assistant, she felt isolated and asked, what do I do now? She had experience with the problems seniors face. "Although they desire to live independently, there are some activities they can no longer do alone. Many have no family members, or, like Lydia, have loving children who live far away and help as much as possible from a distance."

            Kathy wishes more people would reach out to seniors and stay connected with them. She is concerned that "people don't visit their seniors anymore, and it can make such a big difference in their lives. As the population ages, there are not enough people to do these little things that mean so much to one who is living alone." And Kathy has found that visits with her "ladies" make a big difference in her life, too. She loves to listen to their stories, hear about their interesting lives, and laugh with them, such as when Lydia refers to her walker as her "horse." It's impossible to tell who gains the most from Kathy's weekly visits with Lydia; both enjoy the friendship too much to keep score.

Written by Jackie Lind, DARTS volunteer