Photo: Marilyn Bawauah visits a few hours each week and watches “Let’s Make a Deal” with 87-year-old Mrs. Lewis. Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski
by Sandy Kaczmarski
KANE COUNTY—A senior companion program that pairs up volunteers and seniors with the goal of enhancing their lives is expanding throughout southern Kane County.
“(The program) enhances a senior’s life by having them want to get up in the morning with something to look forward to,” Program Coordinator Norma Turner said. “We also ourselves are enlightened by what we do with them.”
Turner said she’s made a lot of new friends since starting the program earlier this year. A first grade teacher for 35 years in Yorkville, Turner was offered this position last December while working as a receptionist at an assisted living facility in Yorkville.
“I thoroughly loved the seniors,” she said.
Now she spends time playing a sort of matchmaker to partner the right volunteer with the right senior. Volunteers are thoroughly screened and can just visit with a senior for a short time or take them to doctor appointments or out shopping.
Seniors looking for a companion must be 60 or older, but volunteers can be as young as 18. The program is offered by Senior Services Associates, Inc. in Aurora through a grant it received.
Marilyn Bawuah of Aurora worked at Asbury Gardens, an assisted living facility in Aurora, as a cook for eight years and found that she, too, liked working with seniors.
“I got in touch with Norma through Senior Services and started volunteering,” she said.
She now spends a few hours a week visiting with Mrs. Lewis, as she prefers to be called.
“When she came through that door, I fell in love with her and she fell in love with me,” Mrs. Lewis said. “That’s the way we started.”
And Mrs. Lewis isn’t shy at all about telling her age.
“I am 87 years old. I don’t mind tellin’ nobody,” she said. “If the Lord let me live this long, I can tell it anywhere I go.”
Bawauh said the first time they got together, they just sat and talked about their families.
“She got me watching this ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’” Bawauh said. “She likes to watch that.”
Margarita Bonifaz, 74, loves to write songs and sing with her companion, Theresa Valez. When Turner first paired them up, she wasn’t even aware they were both from Puerto Rico.
“I’m certainly excited about this program,” Turner said.
Turner said she’s found that when seniors don’t just “sit around and stare at the four walls, they’re happy.”
“They have something to look forward to,” she said. “That is truly why I do the job, and why I love this program.”
The program is always looking for more seniors who would like some friendship and for volunteers who want to spend some time helping others. Anyone interested in either should call Norma Turner at (630) 897-4035 to find out how to sign up.
Senior Services Associates, Inc. serves Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties. Visit their website for more information at seniorservicesassoc.org.