At the Health Foundation, we truly enjoy highlighting our grantee partners and the amazing work that they do. Here is a spotlight from our 2021 annual report: Connections.
What if we could find the resources we needed for a healthy, happy life right in our own community? What if we could rely on each other to make that a reality—each person sharing their talents and skills to help one another form a virtual community? That’s the concept behind Love Living at Home, a “neighbors helping neighbors” network for people aged 62 and over in Tompkins County. Volunteers offer services to their fellow members that include transportation, home maintenance and handyperson help, and much more.
Because of the Health Foundation’s mid-term goal that communities and health systems work collaboratively to become age-friendly, we have partnered with Love Living at Home to help fund this programming, including a new health and wellness initiative that is helping address community health needs.
Love Living at Home’s Volunteer Physician Advocacy Program is providing much-needed support for their members to successfully access health care services. Volunteers bring members to doctor’s appointments or other services like vaccine clinics. Perhaps most important, they take the time to understand members’ needs so they can help be an advocate for their care.
“There can be a lot of fear and anxiety around going to the doctor,” said Executive Director Cheryl Jewell. “Some people feel their needs are not heard, or they are unsure about the questions they should ask. Our volunteers serve as a trusted friend in appointments— supporting them and helping them advocate for themselves.” Cheryl added that this empowering dynamic helps build trust between members and their health care providers and helps the member live a healthier life.
“There are other groups of volunteers who will deliver you somewhere and return to pick you up. This group (LLH) is unique in one very important and distinct area, one of their most valuable services—medical visits where a carefully trained person not only drives you to your appointment and helps you, but assists you in every way while you are there,” shared one member in a testimonial. “Every neighborhood should have a group of well-trained and supportive guides and helpers. It’s a blessing Love Living at Home is out there with so many great tools in its box. No one else compares.”
The COVID-19 pandemic had interrupted access to the program’s services in many ways, said Cheryl. For safety purposes, many people had to stop volunteering. But, in part thanks to funding from the Health Foundation, Love Living at Home’s volunteer ranks have grown dramatically, and nearly 50 people are now contributing services to the network.
The growth and success of Love Living at Home’s programming also has led to new partnerships. Collaborations with the Tompkins County Office for the Aging, which leads the county’s age-friendly efforts, and a local senior center known as Lifelong, are bringing Love Living at Home’s benefits to a larger audience and new communities. In addition to addressing unmet needs in the community, the program is also building relationships and reducing the impact of social isolation—an aspect that is more important than ever because of the pandemic.
“This program is about making connections,” said Cheryl. “We’re identifying needs in our community that aren’t being met and addressing them. We are here for our members.”