Building community and relationships
We have been visiting some of our members every week for more than 15 years. As time goes by and as trust develops, our volunteers come to understand the individual challenges faced by the individuals they visit.
Our approach is always deeply respectful of our members’ personal circumstances, goals, and wishes. We don’t have a point of view as to what would be “best” for them. Instead we are open to meeting them with respect and without judgement exactly as they are. Our goal is never to “fix” them. Instead, we walk with them, to affirm them as fellow human beings, and to be helpful to them guided by their wishes for that help.
When our members express particular goals or requests for assistance with challenges they may face, our volunteers convey those goals or requests to our support services team who are experts in the resources available in our community.
Research has consistently found that that social isolation is a health risk and can increase the risk of an early death or contribute to higher rates of disease and death in older adults. For example in March 2015, a report released from Brigham Young University found that loneliness and social isolation present as much of a threat to longevity as does obesity. However, with connections and relationships, positive health benefits result (Oregonian, March 16, 2015).
We know that the work we are doing truly makes a difference in the lives of our members. Our recent evaluation of this program showed significant findings central to health and wellbeing.
Highlights of our study:
- Members feel better, both physically and mentally, as a result of the visits and relationships with the visitors.
- One member said “health is a precious commodity” and having more involvement with others makes her feel healthier and leads to a more satisfying life.
- Another shared that he has neuropathy and experiences extreme pain which makes him very irritable and depressed. Although he’s healthy enough to get out on his own, he also uses oxygen which makes him feel tethered to his apartment. For him, the weekly visits really help break up his week and the camaraderie he feels with the visitors “makes the bad go away” which he says has improved his health, his mental attitude and depression.
To read more about our findings, download our report: Project Impact Report for Maybelle Center for Community.