A Little Bird Told Me: A Self Expression and Leadership Project where people volunteer with Seniors in Assited Living Facilites
As the United States popluation ages, an ever increasing number of seniors spend their days alone without visitors or companionship. For many of these seniors, lonliness is compounded by health issue and limited mobility. Jeannine Miller created a project called “A Little Bird Told Me” to help do something about it. Here is the story from the North County Times in San Diego County:
Volunteering to help lonely seniors
By: TOM MORROW – Staff Writer
CARLSBAD —- Jeannine Miller wanted to make a difference helping senior citizens. She decided the best way to do that was to go out and volunteer her time with older folks who are alone and seldom have visitors.”I started ‘A Little Bird Told Me’ wanting to make a difference after my dad had a stroke,” Miller explained. “He kept telling me he was fine and didn’t need anything whenever I’d try to get ideas from him on how to make a difference in his life.”
Her 83-year-old father is a World War II U.S. Navy veteran. Miller said she and her two sisters know very little about his early life and even less about what their father went through during the war. She’s learned that
America’s “Greatest Generation” was toughened by the Great Depression and seldom complains or talks about their hardships of long ago.
“He never talks about the war or his experiences,” Miller said.After making an effort to go to various senior centers, assisted living facilities and retirement homes, Miller quickly learned most of her father’s generation are equally mum about their earlier lives, especially the Depression and war.She began taking a class in San Diego on “self expression and leadership,” hoping to gain more insight on ways to better communicate with older seniors like her father.”The lack of communications (between her and her father) prompted me to think of other seniors who are in retirement homes and who possibly don’t have family or at least no one close by to visit them, unlike my dad, who has three doting daughters and a caregiver and lives in his own home.
“Miller came up with her idea of “A Little Bird Told Me,” which is a simple method of getting people to volunteer by going to retirement homes and assisted living facilities to help in any way needed. Miller designed a brochure, which she hands out to friends and neighbors who might want to help. The brochure lists five area senior facilities, mostly in Carlsbad. “I ask people to choose a facility, then call and ask for a quick interview to be matched with an activity they enjoy or be paired up with a senior who might have a common interest,” she explained. “It can be anything from conversation, to playing cards, or bingo, or even planting flowers.” So far, Miller has coaxed 18 of her friends and neighbors into the program.“It’s amazing the response I get when I visit some of the folks, especially ones who never have any visitors,” she said. “The look and smile on their faces when I shake their hand and tell them how nice it is to meet them.”Miller says her program is very simple, but one that is needed. “All I ask is that people like myself volunteer to visit a facility, make a friend or two, then engage in an activity with a senior they have befriended,” Miller explained. “It can be just about anything, even assist in an art class. It’s amazing the reaction volunteers will get when the older person realizes he or she has something in common to talk about or engage in with the volunteer.”Miller has no idea how far her program might go.“It’s just a matter of spreading the word and getting more people like myself interested in volunteerism, who will help senior citizens,” she concluded. “Just like the popular ‘Love on a Leash’ program of taking pets to retirement facilities, I want to expand on having people visit, who do a variety of activities that will be of interest to older folks seldom having visitors.”
She’s looking for more volunteers to join her. Miller can be reached at (760) 578-9964, or e-mail her at: [email protected].