Keeping Seniors “Well Connected”

(Contributed Photo)
Orinda resident Rosalee Biasatti participates in Well Connected’s phone- and online-based discussion groups.

    If you are an older adult who perhaps can’t get out as much as you once did; who might be feeling a bit lonely; or who would like to keep on learning and exploring new ideas, there’s a solution for you.
    “Well Connected” is a phone and online program offering activities, education, friendly conversation and an assortment of classes and support groups, all from the comfort of home and free of charge. Sponsored by Covia, “Well Connected,” which engages more than 1,400 participants across 40 states, began right in this area with offices in San Francisco.
    Covia’s main office is in Walnut Creek. “Grounded in Episcopal values,” it describes its mission as “promoting positive aging by cultivating healthy and engaged communities with a continuum of innovative services that actively support intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual and social well-being.” Covia operates a number of housing communities in the Bay Area, including St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland.
    Josephine, a participant in “Well Connected,” says, “I have met so many new friends. Calling into the groups gives me a feeling of contentment, and I am so touched by the care people have for each other.” Sally, a participant and volunteer explains, “’Well Connected’ is a wonderful source of psychic nourishment. I call every Wednesday to Greg Pond’s poetry reading and always enjoy it. Social Call has provided me with two wonderful younger friends who are like family.”
    Amber Carroll, director at “Well Connected,” tells about Lynnie, a valued facilitator and participant for more than a decade. “Over the years, she’s facilitated hundreds of groups including ‘Keys to Joy,’ a philosophical discussion group, ‘Gratitude,’ our most popular group which occurs twice a day every day of the year, and ‘Living Through Dying,’ a group for older adults to discuss the process of dying in a supportive peer space.”
    To become a participant, call 877-797-7299.  You will be asked basic questions like your address and phone number, and then you are enrolled. A schedule of all the activities will be mailed to you. Join as many as you like. All the activities are staffed by trained volunteers, most of whom are participants themselves. Carroll says, “In addition to them, we partner with universities, museums, research institutes and other professionals, families, friends and people we meet who have interesting stories to tell.” Participants call in to dialogue or listen to facilitated small group discussions about a myriad of topics.
    Offerings vary from Armchair Travel, Bingo and Bird Talk to Learning Spanish, Museums at Home and Pet Tales.”  Participants can play a game, learn a language, write a poem, share grateful thoughts, get support, and, most importantly, connect and engage with others every day across the country. All groups are accessible by phone and many are also online.  There are guidelines to maintain confidentiality (the reason only first names were used above), use technology, and ensure group etiquette.
    “Well Connected” is accessible to low vision and blind participants with materials available in large print, Braille and audio. Marie is a facilitator and Social Call volunteer who lost her eyesight in 2013. She relies on Google to help her make calls. Program specialist Pat Schroeder, enthuses, “’Well Connected’ is a win-win program. It connects people all over the United States as they participate in phone activities in ways that enable them to make new friends, learn new things and significantly use their lifetime of experiences and wisdom to share their talents and knowledge as facilitators. Do give us a try and see how ‘Well Connected’ can enrich your life.”

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