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Groton connects seniors to community through a phone call

Groton — A couple of times every week, Sarah Stanley makes a phone call to give someone a little lift during their day and to say, "Hi, I'm here. How are you?"

They talk about activities they have in common, and Sarah asks her questions about her day or what she used to do for Christmas to give her a friend to talk to.

It's part of Call N Connect, a new program through the Groton Senior Center, in which people volunteer to be a friendly caller to check in with people who may be isolated, said Tomi Stanley, a program supervisor at the center. The program is intended to keep seniors connected to the community through phone calls.

Sarah said the program has brought her the joy and satisfaction of knowing that she is helping someone and making their day.

"It really makes me feel really happy and when I get off the phone, I say, 'Oh, that was so much fun, I can’t wait to do it again,'" said Sarah, who is also Tomi's mother.

The program is intended to provide seniors, who are perhaps worried about COVID-19 or cold and flu season, for example, an opportunity for socialization without leaving their homes, Tomi Stanley said.

"It's going to allow for them to interact with someone," she said. "It's going to give them the opportunity to be able to chat and just share what's going on in their lives and just have that connection with the outside world."

She added that it's not only for people who are homebound but could also help, for example, people who may go out during the week but feel lonely on weekends. The program is for older adults, but there is not a specific age requirement.

Groton Senior Center Program Supervisor Kathy Williams pointed out that some people may be experiencing social anxiety because of the pandemic, and the program is a way to help people start to get reconnected to the community. They may have a conversation with a volunteer and also learn about activities the senior center is offering and then decide they want to join one of the smaller classes.

She said the senior center has in-person classes and activities, but also some virtual options, such as a yoga class held via Zoom, and at times classes, such as tai chi, are held outside when the weather is nice. The gym is open, the center is serving lunch every day and there are services, such as a dietician, a hairdresser and a benefits counselor.

The senior center is looking for volunteers and participants for the Call N Connect program.

Tomi said the schedule is flexible. Volunteers can call one person for about 15 to 20 minutes a week, or they can choose to call more people. Volunteers do not need to be Groton residents, but a background check is required. The senior center is using a computer system, provided by the Motion Picture and Television Fund's Call Hub program, so people can make the phone call from the senior center or from their personal phones anonymously. MPTF provides free training and software to make the program possible.

The senior center will do short assessments of volunteers and participants to match people of like interests.

People interested in volunteering or participating in the program, or who know someone who may benefit from the program, can contact Tomi Stanley at tstanley@groton-ct.gov or (860) 441-6782.

Upcoming events at the Senior Center include:

• Medicare open enrollment information session at 11 a.m. Dec. 1.

• Annual Holiday Light Tour Decorating Contest, in which people decorate their home and register it to be on the Light Tour Map. People should email the address of the decorated home in Groton to tstanley@groton-ct.gov by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 24, and should have the home decorated by Dec. 7 and until Dec. 31, according to the senior center. The announcement for the best decorated home will be made by Jan. 4. A bus tour of the homes will take place at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 10.

• O.A.T.S. (Outdoor Active Traveling Seniors for ages 55+) hike of the Copp Family Park at 1 p.m. Dec 13.

• An Alzheimer's support group for caregivers, through the American Alzheimer's Association, will be held the second Monday of every month, with the next meeting at 10 a.m. Dec. 13.

People can register for the events by calling the center at (860) 441-6785.

k.drelich@theday.com

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