Senior Companions Help Combat Loneliness and Isolation

Senior Companion Sandy Hainline with Connie

Loneliness in older adults is not a new phenomenon. The Beatles sang about “all the lonely people” in their 1966 hit Eleanor Rigby. Today, loneliness and isolation among older adults is more than the basis of a sad song — it is a major public health issue, according to the CDC. Loneliness can impact seniors' health.

Social isolation among adults aged 50 and older is associated with:

  • Increased risk of premature death.
  • A 50% increased risk of dementia.
  • A 29% increased risk of heart disease and 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

The good news in Iowa, according to the United Health Foundation, is that Iowa’s older adults are at a lower risk for social isolation than the rest of the nation. Iowans 65 and older have the sixth highest rate of volunteerism in the country and rank seventh for low risk of social isolation.

EveryStep’s Senior Companion program, part of the national Americorps Seniors Senior Companion initiative, helps ease loneliness and isolation in Polk, Warren, Marion and Lucas counties.

Senior Companion Sandy Hainline has been with the program for three years and currently serves five clients in Polk County.

“I had a friend that worked at Iowa Methodist Hospital’s resource department and she had a little booklet that mentioned the Senior Companion program,” says Sandy. “She thought I’d be a good fit for it.”

And she is.

Sandy has been a Senior Companion to Connie for several years. Connie lives alone and while she likes to be self-sufficient, she needs help with some tasks. Her neighbor helps carry groceries for her, but she relies on Sandy to get out of her home to have some fun and share conversation.

“You know, I’d be lost without Sandy. I wouldn’t know what to do. She’s a very good companion for me. She understands me. You can’t ask for a better person than Sandy.”

“We go out to eat, go to the store, to the park,” says Sandy. “It’s fun every day, but we’ve done some memorable things.” She and Connie both recall the day they went to Gray’s Lake in Des Moines and sat on the terrace to watch the paddle boats. “It was such a nice day,” remembers Connie. “We saw the ducks, too!”

Their relationship has evolved into a friendship, and both look forward to their time together.

“You know, I’d be lost without Sandy,” says Connie. “I really would. I wouldn’t know what to do. She’s a very good companion for me. She understands me. The Lord put us together for a reason. You can’t ask for a better person than Sandy.”

Sandy says she enjoys the ability to give back to the community, along with the new friendships she has made.

EveryStep’s Senior Companion program provides weekly assistance at no cost to older adults who may be homebound and can benefit from extra social or emotional support, transportation to appointments, help with shopping or respite for clients' caregivers.

Senior Companions must be a resident of Polk, Warren, Marion or Lucas counties, be age 55 or older, and meet income guidelines. Senior Companions receive a stipend and other benefits. The program is offered at no charge to residents of Polk, Warren, Marion and Lucas counties who are 21 or older and need extra support to continue to live independently in their homes.

To see if you or a loved one may be eligible to participate in the Senior Companion program, call (515) 558-9957 or email