Ms. Carol Waller changes her voicemail message every month. Some months she has interesting facts about a holiday or the season but every message has a short song.
Ms. Waller loves to sing and really enjoys chatting over the phone. Tara Lewis, a BakerRipley volunteer, calls Ms. Waller every day on her way home from work.
“Talking with Ms. Waller gives me life - she literally does not stop. She’s very active and enjoys life,” Tara said. “She’s shown me that age doesn’t necessarily mean how you have to feel. She’s taught me that it’s up to you to take what life has given and to do something with it. And to always be kind to people.”
Ms. Waller and Tara participate in the Telephone Reassurance program through our Senior Services division. Volunteers are matched with an older adult, often one who is homebound or without a car, and call every day at an agreed upon time.
“I would say this program is a life-saver. I know that someone is going to be there whether I need them or don’t need them,” Ms. Waller said. “I have a lifeline, I feel secure.”
A daily conversation builds a relationship. Most days, they talk about the every day things – what their plans are for the week, the weather, how Ms. Waller’s dog Pearl is. Because of daily check-ins with Tara and visits from our Senior Services staff, Ms. Waller has the freedom to stay in her home.
“One day I forgot to tell her I was going out and she called Randy, my son,” Ms. Waller said. “I told her if I didn’t pick up, always call him. And he knew where I was that day. She called to check on me and make sure everything was ok - that was above and beyond.”
Tara believes there isn’t a downside to volunteering with the program. Between a flexible schedule and creating a personal connection with someone, she enjoys their conversations and learning from Ms. Waller.
“I think this is a good way for older adults to know that outside of their community, there are people who care about you,” Tara said. “Often you don’t know what these seniors may be experiencing or what their life story is, but talking with Ms. Waller has really helped me in my life by sharing her stories and her perspective with me.”
Tara and Ms. Waller have continued their phone chats for over a year and each call can vary, from 10 minutes to closer to an hour.
“I worked until I was 90 and I have to use my walker to get around, but that’s not going to stop me from doing things,” Ms. Waller said. “I still talk to Lindsey, the first girl who called me a couple years ago, and I am very fortunate to be able to have two people outside my family that call me.”
Both Ms. Waller and Tara look forward to meeting in person one day and continue their calls every day around 4 pm.