“I’m really glad they came out with a program like this. I’ve finally got a nice friend,” said Doris in the 2016 United Way campaign video.
The last time we heard from her, Doris had just been matched with Terra and her husband, Austin through Lutheran Social Services of SD’s Better Together. Since March of last year, the three have been meeting monthly and growing closer than ever.
“They’re crazier than I am! We have a good time,” says Doris. “Austin likes to tease with me. I am happy to be with the Better Together program.”
The program, funded by Sioux Empire United Way, matches older adults—or “neighbors”— with volunteers and is helping to connect people within the community, develop meaningful relationships, decrease loneliness, and connect generations together. Terra heard about the program through previous volunteering with LSS.
“They sent an email announcing Better Together to youth mentors, and I forwarded it to my husband, Austin. He said to sign up! We both want to give back. Austin was really close to his grandmother and enjoys working with older adults and learning from them,” explains Terra.
Learning about each other is just one of the advantages the three have gained from the experience.
“I have learned too much from Doris. It’s hard to put a finger on all that she has taught us,” says Austin. “Being part of this program comes easy for us. She is part of the family.”
So much like family, that since we last checked in with them, they say that many of their favorite memories with each other have occurred on special holidays and occasions spent together.
“We spent Christmas Eve together and exchanged gifts,” says Terra. “Doris got Austin a reindeer candy dispenser that sings Jingle Bells. He keeps it in his truck. We were also able to celebrate Doris’ birthday with her whole family. We got to meet them all and had a great time.”
But it doesn’t have to be a special occasion for them to have a good time.
“We meet a few times a month for a few hours, but we are in touch through text and Facebook weekly,” says Terra. “We are always checking up with each other. If we go out of town we need to let her know that we made it home safe. We go out to eat, go shopping, visit at her apartment, and try to do new things with her.”
Doris loves being with Terra and Austin and having things to do, and she even gets recognized now when she’s out and about.
“I like the company and going places. It gives me something to look forward to,” says Doris. “I was honored to be part of the video. I was at McDonald’s and a guy said he saw my picture in the newspaper. I told him it was a fun program and everyone was so nice.”
Terra says if there’s one thing she’s taken away from the experience, it’s this: “fun and friendship don’t have age limits.”
Doris, Terra, & Austin in July of 2016
One thing is for sure, whether it’s through friendships, families, or communities, we are Better Together.
There are currently 26 older adults matched with volunteers in the Sioux Empire, and 7 on a waiting list. Visit seuw.org for more information on how to get involved,
Check out Doris, Terra, & Austin in last year's campaign video, here.