Thirty years running, a program designed by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota to offer companionship for senior citizens is still running strong in Minot.
Despite the flooding of the Souris River this past summer, the Senior Companions program has remained successful, explained Becky Telin, program director for Senior Companions.
About 15 of the program's clients or companions were displaced, or somehow affected by the flood, Telin said, adding that in the throes of the flooding, the program would be quite beneficial to those who were displaced.
"This is a great program, even for new clients who had to be displaced," Telin said. "We can provide a companion to go over and visit them, wherever they are staying, because it is about making sure people stay in their homes."
With the assistance of companions, seniors are able to maintain some level of independence in order to remain living in their own homes. Otherwise, they could enter nursing homes, Telin said.
Companions assist with grocery shopping, household chores and other tasks based on the needs of the senior, the Senior Companions website stated.
This is a great program, even for new clients who had to be displaced. We can provide a companion to go over and visit them, wherever they are staying, because it is about making sure people stay in their homes.
- Becky Telin,
Senior Companions program director
Last year, the program had 55 clients with about 10 to 15 companions in the city of Minot, Telin said. Statewide, there were 765 seniors and approximately 115 companions. She noted that, sometimes, a volunteer could serve as a volunteer for five or six seniors.
The program is "always looking" for volunteers on Indian reservations the state has four, as well as the Trenton Indian Service Area in western North Dakota where there are about two to three companions on each reservation, Telin said.
"We'd like to see more (volunteers) down in Dickinson," Telin said. "We know there is a need in Powers Lake."
She added that even in bigger cities, like Fargo, there is a need for volunteers to become companions.
To volunteer, a companion needs to be at least 55 years of age and be income eligible; in the latter instance, a formula is used to determine eligibility, although Telin said that "you have to make less than, basically, $22,000 a year."
Physicals are provided to volunteers to insure that they are healthy enough to volunteer.
The program, which was designed to serve older persons, was devised in 1968. Five years later, the program concept was incorporated into the Domestic Volunteers Service Act of 1973, Telin said. While the program began to receive funding throughout the nation, it wasn't until 1981 that a program was funded for North Dakota.
It began in Fargo, where Senior Companions still holds their main office. Then, outreach offices were established in Minot, Williston, Bismarck and Grand Forks.
"We expanded and were able to get the funding to provide service to approximately 900 to 1,000 seniors in the state, and we're always looking for funding and donations," Telin said.
About 80 percent of funding comes from a federal grant, while the program also receives "a little bit of money" from North Dakota Aging Services which is used to provide the program on North Dakota reservations.