How did the program start?
Better Together grew from needs identified by the Sioux Empire United Way and Active Generations. They saw that a significant number of older adults in the Sioux Empire were disconnected from their community.
What are the needs?
There are 27,680 people in the four-county area who are 65 or older. 57% are women. In older age groups, the proportion of women is even greater. In the 85+ age group, 70% are women. 47% are widowed, divorced, separated, or were never married. 22% are veterans. 31% have some kind of disability. 45% own their home.
What is the program about?
Through connecting trained volunteers with lonely older adults, Better Together helps people 65 and older maintain or reinvigorate connections to their community and live happily in their own homes.
What do volunteers do?
A Better Together volunteer’s most important role is to be a friend and companion to an older adult. Each volunteer is matched with an older individual, called a “Neighbor,” to spend an average of four hours per month together to go on outings, talk, pursue hobbies, and other relationship building activities. Depending on each Neighbor’s needs, volunteers might also help with grocery shopping, errands, or occasional transportation.
The goal of Better Together is for volunteers and older adults to develop trusting relationships. Toward this goal, we ask new volunteers to commit to a minimum of a one-year relationship.
Who can volunteer for this program?
Volunteers can include adult individuals, a couple, families or small groups. Because Better Together serves a population that can be highly vulnerable, volunteers are carefully screened, trained, and monitored. If a couple or family volunteers together, anyone in the group who is 18 or over is screened and must be present at all meetings.
How can older adults get involved?
If you or someone you know is at least 65 years old, currently living independently and would like to make a new friend, they would be a great fit for this program! Neighbors can be fairly mobile and go out and about with their volunteer or can be a little more restricted and have a volunteer visit them at their home.
What support does LSS offer?
LSS ensures each match is going well and provides frequent check-ins and monitoring. Each new Better Together volunteer participates in a training session before they are matched. Each new Better Together neighbor goes through an intake process and is assured they can contact LSS with questions relating to issues they are facing. LSS will connect neighbors to community resources when we are not able to coordinate service ourselves.
LSS hosts group activities for Better Together volunteers and Neighbors on a regular basis. The activities are either community building — such as going to a special event or a social gathering with other program participants, or educational — such as workshops on health and wellness, personal finances, or other issues facing older adults.
What this program is NOT.
Better Together volunteers are not meant to be home health workers. Volunteers do not do any personal care, household chores or errand running on demand for their Neighbor. This is not a driving service. While we understand many older adults need transportation, Better Together is meant to put the personal relationship between a volunteer and older adult first. Better Together is not a dating service for older adults. It is an opportunity to meet a new friend, but not of the romantic variety. There is no fee to participate in the program. Matches decide on all activities together. There might be a cost if you go out for a meal or to an event, but the program requires that each person cover their own expenses. LSS will work with matches to secure free or reduced admission to events and special deals at restaurants when possible.