Virtual Senior Companionship

Keeping Our Seniors Connected Through Selfhelp

 By Ashley Vaughan, CNN |Updated 9:57 AM ET, Sun January 17, 2021

Selfhelp Community Services is a non-profit organization serving 20,000 older and vulnerable adults each year through home  care, affordable housing, and  community based social services, while remaining the largest provider of services to Holocaust survivors in North America. The organization offers a complete network of home and community-based services with the overarching goal of helping seniors live with dignity and independence and avoid institutionalization.

Ten years ago, Selfhelp developed the Virtual Senior Center (VSC) to bring online, face‐to‐face, and highly interactive classes, cultural experiences, and discussion groups to seniors who are homebound. The initial partners included Microsoft Corporation, the NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA) and the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT).

Giving Companionship

As the pandemic forced people to prioritize physical health over mental wellness, many elderly citizens have suffered in silence. Programs like the Selfhelp’s Virtual Senior Center program are seeking volunteers eager to share meaningful moments and smiles with seniors. At-home volunteers are needed to facilitate hour-long virtual classes for their senior students based on interests, hobbies and expertise. Classes are diverse, covering topics like cooking, birding, seated exercise, art and music history. Selfhelp says it operates the oldest and largest program providing comprehensive services to Holocaust survivors in North America. It provides a special platform to accommodate the unique needs of these users as well.

Selfhelp’s virtual senior center hosts online classes for older homebound adults to provide mental and emotional wellness.

Just as the Virtual Senior Center offers emotional and physical health benefits to participants, volunteer facilitators become part of our community and learn from our clients as well,” says Sandy Myers from Selfhelp Community Services. “We’ve learned the importance of strong online communities and are grateful for the work of our volunteers to make the VSC a vibrant community, especially throughout Covid.

Although based in New York, Selfhelp’s virtual senior center is growing nationally. The team welcomes volunteers and senior students from across the country. And if individuals are interested in learning how to bring a virtual senior center to their neighborhood, Selfhelp can help.