Enhancing the Lives of Grand Rapids’ Senior Community

The phrase “no longer alone” sounds to me like something that just about everyone wants to hear, certainly at one point in their lives. There are plenty of life experiences that we go through as an individual, and connection during times of transition and strife can be hard to find.

What a brilliant tagline, then, for an organization whose target demographic is seniors, a population that has experienced many changes and, throughout their lifetime, inevitable loss. The question then becomes, how does an organization unite seniors in a way that fosters a strong sense of community, belonging, and independence?

Senior Neighbors, an agency that operates out of Grand Rapids and in four other locations throughout Kent County, has developed dynamic programming to enhance the lives of those who participate in the organization.

Robert Barnes first joined the agency as the program director, eventually moving up to become president. In his own words, “Very often, seniors are living alone, and everything — deciding on the best Medicare plan to exercising to eating healthy meals to securing transportation — gets more difficult when you’re doing it alone. We aim to make the process work better overall and for participants to feel better as a result.”

Since its inception in 1972, Senior Neighbors has developed a robust offering of 11 services that educate adults on relevant topics. “The thread,” says Barnes, “is for seniors to build and maintain connections to other people.”

Senior Neighbors offers case management assistance on finances, insurance, health, and housing. Staff interact with and provide referrals to partnering agencies so that senior adults can locate information necessary to maximize their quality of life.

Senior Neighbors offers classes on emotional, physical, intellectual, financial, spiritual, purposeful, and social wellness. The depth of this particular service area helps to preserve the mental acuity and emotional stability of those who desire it most.

The organization also provides referrals for adults 60 years and older with refugee status. Whether they need to find language services or new friends and a relatable community, Senior Neighbors has established a network that will assist them.

Senior Companions is one of my favorite programs. Trained and vetted volunteers go into the homes of seniors who need assistance with chores around the house, transportation to appointments, or the completion of daily tasks that are easier to do in pairs. The beauty of this particular program is that it enables seniors to live in their homes as they age while preventing the feeling of isolation that often comes from going it alone.

Senior Neighbors offers additional programs that ensure the people they service truly feel cared for and connected to the community around them. A full listing is available online.

There’s an old Bonnie Raitt song that has been a longtime favorite of mine, but one verse, in particular, stands out as she wisely recounts the uneasy feeling of aging:

I see my folks are getting on, and I watch their bodies change.
I know they see the same in me, and it makes us both feel strange.
No matter how you tell yourself, it’s what we all go through,
Those eyes are pretty hard to take when they’re staring back at you.
When did the choices get so hard? With so much more at stake.
Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste.

Thank you to Senior Neighbors for providing individuals in and around Kent County with a higher quality of life than they might have had without you. And thank you for your wisdom in understanding that it’s better to be together than apart. Or, as a yoga instructor I know says, “When you face a problem alone, it’s a challenge. When you face it together, it becomes an adventure.”

Senior Neighbors
333 Division Ave S, Suite 100
Grand Rapids MI 49503
(616) 459-3040 l SeniorNeighbors.org