The Senior Companion Program (SCP), located in Pittsburgh, PA, offers homebound senior citizens companionship and services, linking senior volunteers with seniors in need. The services include escort services to the doctor or a senior citizen center, light shopping, respite care, reading, writing and making phone calls for the clients. All services prevent premature institutionalization. The companionship offered by the program also helps to prevent depression, which often leads to suicide among the elderly. Allegheny County, with the second highest percentage of senior citizens in the United States, is very appreciative of the Senior Companionship Program.
Many of the elderly residing in Allegheny County are homebound and lonely because most, if not all, of their friends and relatives are deceased. Senior Companions are senior citizens who fill in for this loss, providing a new friendship. In Allegheny County, 106 Senior Companion volunteers are brightening the days of 526 lonely seniors. These volunteers bring news of the outside world to the seniors as well as escort them in the community.
Louise Balsimo enrolled as a Senior Companion 11 years ago at the age of 61. She has spent these years being a bright and cheerful friend to the elderly. Not only does she provide her time and warm smile, but she gives attention to the daughter of a legally blind resident. Each day of the week, she visits with a different client for four hours. For her efforts, Ms. Balsimo receives a stipend of $2.55 per hour.
Ms. Balsimo loves to help people and keep them company. In 1997, the Senior Companion Program of Allegheny County awarded her for 10 years of service. She is so loved that she was nominated three times for Senior Companion of the Year in Allegheny County.
At age 72, Ms. Balsimo is still an active member of this program. Always with a smile on her face, she sets a perfect example of how senior citizens can remain active in the community.