Oregon's Poverty Fighting Network

Three generations combat isolation, loneliness as Senior Companions

In 1983, Evva Smith Young, a recent 74-year-old widow, became a Clackamas County Senior Companion, offering friendship and in-home assistance to isolated seniors and people with disabilities in the county. For 13 years, she helped countless seniors maintain their independence by running errands, completing easy household chores, and simply spending time with her clients. Her family says she loved every minute of it.

That’s why when Evva’s daughters, Terri and Carol, and her granddaughter, Ellen, were seeking a meaningful activity, they turned to the Clackamas County Senior Companions Program nearly 20 years after Evva left the program. Operated by the Social Services Division, the Senior Companion Program offers a powerful antidote to isolation by pairing dedicated program participants with seniors in need of in-home support and assistance with transportation.

“My clients count on me to take them to their doctor appointments, grocery stores, or to pick up their prescriptions. If we don’t have errands to run, we just visit,” says Ellen.

Companions can spend up to eight hours a week with a client and generally have multiple clients they see each week. Senior Companion clients consistently rate the program highly and appreciate the tangible and intangible benefits they receive from the program. As one client stated, “Carol is fantastic and has made a great deal of difference in my life and my attitude about living. She helps me feel less helpless because she increases my sense of self-worth.”

Terri , Carol and Ellen

All three women say they get more out of their work than they give. Terri says, “Being a companion gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I have a purpose in life.” Carol adds, “I personally feel I have grown younger both physically and mentally. It is so much better for me to have something meaningful to do instead of sitting on the couch waiting to get old.”

Senior Companions must be 55 years or older and earn less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. They receive extensive training prior to participant contact, work 15 to 40 hours per week, and earn a small stipend for their services. Know someone who would make a great Senior Companion? Contact Cari Vandecoevering, 503-655-8875, for more information.

Submitted by:
Clackamas County Social Services