Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, Aging Partners, the Seniors Foundation, and ServiceSpace today launched a new program called NeighborLNK. The program is designed to facilitate personal connections by directly linking volunteers with seniors (age 60 and over) or persons with disabilities who are homebound and seeking additional support as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Volunteers will provide services without having physical contact with the participants, and they will not enter their homes. The program is free to volunteers and participants, and more information is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: NeighborLNK).
This additional support provided by the volunteers may include food or medication pick up, as well as phone or video calls to foster deeper connection. "In these days of physical distancing and isolation, it is important that we not only support each other with access to food and other basic necessities, but that we also offer each other the gift of listening and friendship," said Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird. "We in Lincoln have the power to reach out and let our seniors and other homebound neighbors know that, just because they live alone, they need not feel alone."
"NeighborLNK will be a program that will provide a service for seniors in Lincoln to assist them in protecting in place and increasing their safety, while also providing them with a new relationship and increasing their well-being through a friendly call or video chat," said John Croghan, Board President of the Seniors Foundation. "The Seniors Foundation is excited about the positive impact this program will have on seniors in Lincoln." More information on the Seniors Foundation is available at seniorsfoundation.org.
Residents age 60 and over and persons with disabilities can fill out the application at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: NeighborLNK) and email the completed packet to NeighborLNK@lincoln.ne.gov. They may also call 402-441-7575 to request an application packet. Applicants should note any special requirements on the forms. Volunteers must complete an application, sign a waiver, and pass a background check. Volunteers must be at least 19 years old and must complete a brief online training.
Aging Partners staff will review all volunteer applications and assistance requests and pair people based on location and services requested. Once a match is made, both parties will be notified by phone, text, and/or email.
"We're excited about this program and what it could offer all parties involved in a direct service relationship," said Aging Partners director Randall Jones. "This is a great way for us to stay connected and prevent physical isolation from becoming social or emotional isolation. It's also a wonderful way to serve your neighbor in a meaningful and safe manner."
City Council member Tammy Ward, a former Executive Director of the Seniors Foundation, said persistent feelings of social isolation and loneliness can lead to a higher risk of developing certain mental and physical health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.
"My hope is that the connections fostered by this program last well beyond COVID-19," Ward said. "Regardless of COVID-19, it's important that we create ties within and between our senior population and the rest of the community. I'm excited about the potential of this program to foster lasting intergenerational bonds."
Volunteers may receive ongoing support from ServiceSpace, a volunteer-run organization that leverages modern technology to support the building of deep relationships. ServiceSpace will host regular video forums so that volunteers have an opportunity to connect with one another, raise questions, and further develop the skills critical to the success of their paired relationships.