Since 2015, Lutheran Social Services has brought older adults ages 65 and up together with trained volunteers. The LSS Better Together program matches elderly adults with volunteers in Minnehaha, Lincoln, and Brookings Counties. This program is part of LSS’s independent adult services and helps to establish trusting relationships and regular social opportunities between older adults who live on their own and LSS volunteers. Better Together is always looking for additional volunteers to partner with neighbors. All volunteers go through a training process but ultimately, the hope is that the volunteer and the older adult they are paired with will create their own relationship like Sharon and Donna have.
Sharon and Donna have been a Better Together match for just over a year, but they feel as though they have known each other much longer. Sharon moved from Iowa to Sioux Falls in early 2018 to be closer to her sister. Her husband passed away several years ago and they never had any children. Sharon is 90 years old and she likes to keep moving! She does not like to just sit in her apartment; however, she had no way to experience all of Sioux Falls’ great activities because she did not know they city and does not drive.
Sharon has expressed on several occasions how thankful she is for the Better Together program. Thanks to her volunteer, she has been able to experience her new community. She has been to Falls Park, Christmas at the Cathedral, the Sculpture Walk, and various concerts which were all new experiences for her. Sharon was even able to visit her family’s homestead in Madison with Donna. She has shared that she never would have been able to do any of these things as she did not know anyone who would be able to take her, let alone someone who would enjoy the experiences with her. Sharon says that Donna has become just like a daughter/sister to her and she does not know what she would do without the program.
Better Together has mutually benefitted Donna. Donna is married and has two adult children. Neither of her children live in the state and her husband is more of a homebody. Donna volunteers because she wants to help someone and she was looking for a companion who would enjoy some of the amazing opportunities Sioux Falls has to offer.
Sharon and Donna are just one of 64 Better Together matches through Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota. Currently, Better Together matches are unable to meet in person due to CDC guidelines. Many of our neighbors are missing their coffee groups, card games, outings with their volunteer and of course all of their other social events that occur within their living facilities. Lutheran Social Service staff are calling on neighbors regularly, as are their Better Together matches. The program is truly living up to its name during this time of change, proving that even if relationships happen to happen through phones or video chats, we truly are better together.