JCA, Phone Pals program keeps senior citizens engaged during pandemic

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ROCKVILLE, Md. (WDVM) — When Gov. Larry Hogan announced the closing of senior centers in response to COVID-19, staff at the Jewish Council for the Aging rushed to put a phone reassurance program into place, and it’s helping keep people with dementia engaged.

JCA is a 45-year-old non-profit organization that serves seniors across the greater Washington area maintain independence, dignity, vitality and self-respect. There’s nothing worse than feeling isolated. People with dementia are already at risk for social isolation, and isolation can often exasperate symptoms.

The JCA serves people in the earliest stages of memory loss. Prior to lock down, the center would be a safe haven, where members could receive stimulation, support, and socialization. With doors closed, staff worked to find a way to keep them engaged, and thus the “JCA Phone Pals” program was born.

Volunteers can sign up to talk with Kensington Club members who just need a listening ear. Volunteers do everything to try and keep conversations based around the here and now, as it helps with memory loss.

“It boost their minds, and widens their social circle, which is great,” said Colleen Kemp, Director of, Social Adult Day Programs at JCA. “For people with dementia, having a sense of purpose and a social connection to the outside maintains their well being.”

Since March 23, volunteers have made nearly 400 calls. some members receive up to 6 calls a week. and kemp says it has truly been a lifeline. 

“I’ve just been so impressed about how many people have such community mindedness and across the board, everybody just wants to give back,” said Kemp. “I think it’s a good sign that we’re all going to get through this pandemic together.”

Even in the bad times, a listening ear is only one phone call away.

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