Seniors facing social isolation build bonds with meal delivery volunteers during pandemic

Seniors facing social isolation build bonds with meal delivery volunteers during pandemic

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Sometimes, what makes a delivery special is not the contents of a package, so much as it is the person who delivers it.

Such is the case with Allison Ayres and her 7-year-old daughter Twyla.

“Help comes in all forms, and help looks a lot of different ways for a lot of different people,” Ayres said.

On Wednesdays, help comes in the form of a hot meal and a smile.

Once a week since June, the mother-daughter duo has been driving around Louisville, delivering meals to senior citizens through a program called SeniorCare Experts. Sometimes, they simply drop the meals at the client’s doorstep and leave, but in other cases, Ayres and her daughter have grown close to the seniors they see each week.

One of their frequent stops is to Stella Klinglesmith’s home. Klinglesmith is in her 80s, battling dementia and living alone.

“Oh honey, I’m lonely,” Kinglesmith told WAVE 3 News. “The rest of my family is gone. As you can see, all these pictures, that’s my two sons over there. They’re already gone. My husband’s been gone three months.”

Between death and a global pandemic, the only people Kinglesmith sees consistently are Ayres and her daughter. The once-a-week stops to her home have turned complete strangers into family.

“I’ve never had a daughter,” Klingelsmith said. “I had three sons. [Allison and Twyla] are just like my children.”

For thousands of seniors, this is what living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been like - lonely and isolated.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) states nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), social isolation comes with an increased risk for health problems like dementia, stroke, heart disease and death.

Patty Dissell, the Executive Director of SeniorCare Experts, told WAVE 3 News the harmful effects of living alone make it even more important for the volunteers to spend time with their clients each week.

“Isolation and depression is real and it’s really hard on these folks that are having to stay at home, stay isolated,” Dissell said. “They can’t see their family. And to have a volunteer hand them a good meal, but visit with them is super important.”

Ayres agrees and said the bonds she and her daughter have created with the seniors on their delivery route have helped them understand how big the need for help is.

“Need isn’t always what you think it is,” Ayres said. “Need might be the meal, but sometimes I feel like what we’re fulfilling for these senior friends is more than the meal, and it’s the love and the compassion, and just seeing a face and eyes, smiling eyes, eyes that make them happy and help them get through the day.”

Dissell said SeniorCare Experts delivers between 150 and 170 meals per day. The nonprofit also provides other services for seniors in need, and serves approximately 1,400 people across Jefferson County. Dissell said the company is looking to expand their meal delivery services into West Louisville and other areas of the county.

To learn more about SeniorCare Experts, click here.

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