TAMPA, Fla. — A Tampa area nonprofit, Seniors in Service, is working to help older adults feel less lonely and isolated as they age. 

What You Need To Know

  • Trained volunteers offer "companionship as medicine"

  • First responders who frequently receive non-emergency calls can partner to refer lonely seniors

  • Volunteer as a Health Buddy

Seniors in Service started a program pairing lonely seniors who have chronic health conditions with a “health buddy.”

The organization has partnered with first responders so agencies can refer elderly people who make frequent non-emergency calls for service and are living alone.

Shelley Loadwick, a Health Buddies volunteer, was paired with Joyce Yoder as her health buddy. Listening to the two women talk, one may think they have had a long history together. But the two were only introduced about twelve weeks ago.

“We just talk about everything, we talk about grocery shopping and pets, and we talk about our old friends, and we talk about our children,” said Loadwick.

“Shelley and I kind of hit it off from the first time that we talked,” said Yoder.

The Health Buddies program connects trained volunteers with partners to provide encouragement, education and support to people living with chronic conditions.

Yoder joined the program after suffering heart failure a year ago.

“The reason I got into it is because I fell all the time,” said Yoder.

Health buddies are encouraged to connect at least twice a week for 15 to 30 minutes, usually by phone.

“Joyce and I, we talk twice a week and we usually talk for an hour or more in the mornings,” said Loadwick.

The women chat about things most friends do. Loadwick shares important information she learns in training about nutrition, fall prevention, medication adherence and fraud prevention to help keep Yoder safe and healthy.

From discussing well-being, to welcoming each other into their personal lives, the women have bonded.

“I hope she feels like she has a new friend to talk to,” said Loadwick.

“She’s been wonderful for me — she has,” Yoder said.

Outside of volunteering, Loadwick, a mother of two, has been a dancer for more than 20 years. The former professional ballet dancer now teaches.

“I think dance especially, it’s just fostering this love of music and movement, and getting their creativity going,” said Loadwick, who now has someone new to encourage that creativity.

Turns out both women enjoy dance — the buddies discovered during a recent conversation that they both enjoy line dancing.

“Maybe we can do some dancing together, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Loadwick.

“We’ll just be dancing out the doors,” said Yoder, who liked the idea. “Shelley brought a lot of spark in my life.”

“It feels nice to feel like I’m connected with somebody in the community,” said Loadwick.