Old idea brings new lifeline to shut-ins

Nobody knows in advance which of us seniors will end up being homebound. It could be those we least expect.

The needs of our shut-ins often get marginalized. That may be because our lawmakers seek votes with the “well” elderly in senior centers but have virtually no personal contact with the homebound seniors.

They’re almost treated like invisibles. But this must end.

As a geriatric social worker now semi-retired, I’m devoting this first column to our homebound friends out there. You can readily expect some fresh ideas.

In my opinion, isolation is the foe to overcome.

Back in the 1980s in Queens, New York, two ladies active in our senior forum suddenly developed heart problems. They were given meals-on-wheels deliveries. But that wasn’t enough.

Deborah called to appeal for some mental stimulation, yet I had no instant remedy to offer. Then, the district Social Security rep came knocking on my door. He wanted a date to speak to our senior center forum. His topic: Medicare upgrades in services provided.

I asked the speaker-to-be to also consider homebound seniors.

“I can’t go around door to door,” he responded, and I had to agree.

Then I introduced the possibility of using conference calling. He loved that idea. We called it “Sunshine Line.”

Here’s how it works:

1.Seniors are alerted in advance of the day and call time.

  1. A conference call operator is supplied with the names and numbers of participants.

  2. At the assigned time, the social worker introduces the group and the guest. This could come after the guest has already spoken to the senior center group.

  3. The speaker shares information, followed up by a Q&A session over the phone.

  4. At the 15-minute mark, the operator states that call will close in five minutes. This supplies a closure device.

Sunshine Line proved to be a huge success. It was later duplicated in Virginia, and written about in the Washington Post.

We have yet to see this happen here out in the West. But I want Oregon to be the pioneer. Can you imagine how many more people we could reach through a pilot program? We could bring “sunshine” into the lives of shut-ins.

Tell your legislator to support this at a small cost to taxpayers. May those dim days begin to brighten for everyone.

(Lee Coyne lives in Salem. He can be reached at luckycoyne@yahoo.com.)


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