an intergenerational initiative to build well-being and reduce loneliness
Phone-a-Friend is a telephone companionship program that demolishes loneliness and fortifies well-being for socially isolated seniors. Its win-win design delivers tremendous benefits to student volunteer interns too.
Phone-a-Friend volunteer interns are not counselors. They do not solve problems or give advice. Nor is this a traditional support line. Instead, they are good companions who take an interest in each senior’s life and abilities, not disabilities. Their purpose is to discover what they have in common, enjoy each other’s company, and have a life-affirming conversation that’s good for the soul. Such meaningful connections every week are the most powerful antidote to loneliness.
“Talk not of wasted affection; affection never was wasted.”
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Two hours per week for one school year.
- Calls are made weekly to two seniors. Each call lasts as long as both of you want it to, usually 5–60 minutes.
- Weekly reflection on your calls plus small group discussion, via online platform, continues to build your skill and insight throughout the year. Like learning any language, it takes about a year to become proficient.
- Applicants are selected (max 12 per training) by interview.
- If selected, you attend a 12-hour experiential training program in January prior to being matched with your seniors.
- All volunteer training seminars are conducted in-person in Santa Barbara (Friday evening 6:00–9:00pm, and all day Saturday 9:00am–6:00pm).
- NEXT TRAINING SESSION: NOVEMBER 4–5, 2022
A Public-Private Collaboration
Comments from Students:
My friendship with Larry has been growing really well. We’ve been having wonderfully fruitful talks, just great conversations. Today, I just got off the phone with him—after 2 hours!
Comments from Seniors:
The program has been very helpful to me since I lost my counseling services…it feels like a lifeline in a way and it gives me some more peace knowing I am going to have some contact coming.
This program has helped me a lot. I don’t receive many calls from people…I was thinking the day before the call, oh, tomorrow I’m going to receive the call. So, I was excited, like a little kid. So, yeah, it helped me a lot.
I get different insights from you and I get to share things with you…it’s a very positive program…I’ve really welcomed our phone calls and what I’ve learned from you.
How we measure results:
Our goal is to begin repairing a badly torn social fabric. We aim for a measurable reduction in the risk of loneliness using a measure called the Social Quotient, the world’s first holistic measure of social connection among older adults. It was developed by the Klaatch data analytics team in New York, who independently track the results and analyze the data for AiC.
The Social Quotient quantifies how social connectedness—and its opposite, loneliness—changes over time. It is an aggregate score comprised of three factors gleaned from validated questions asked in the context of a normal telephone conversation which is recorded and then analyzed to determine not only what the participant said, but what they meant. This occurs at the beginning, middle and close of each phase of the program.
Phone-a-Friend Phase 1 Report
The Phase 1 16-week pilot produced a 13% improvement in social connectedness among the senior residents at five Housing Authority properties.
This is a remarkable accomplishment for a brand-new program, with very limited options to promote it, and participants from two very different generations who had never met one another before. Not to mention an outstanding collaborative effort between three very different agencies who were working together for the first time.
On a scale of 1-10 seniors were asked how likely they would be to recommend Phone-a-Friend to a friend or neighbor? 10 out of 12 selected 10! The program’s Net Promoter Score was 9.6