YARMOUTH — The town hopes to make Yarmouth a more age-friendly community by introducing several new programs for senior citizens.

Yarmouth Community Services is working with Aging in Place, a program of Yarmouth Cares About Neighbors, or YCAN, and the Southern Maine Agency on Aging to provide opportunities for seniors to stay in their homes longer.

To help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, Community Services is offering both a home visit and a phone pal program.

And the new Handy Helper Service provides seniors with a way to complete small, but important routine maintenance, from painting to gardening.

Community Services is seeking volunteers interested in helping out in any of the three new programs. Call 835?9866 or or email [email protected] to sign up or for more information.

Maureen Brosnan, Yarmouth’s community resource specialist, said the Friendly Visitor Program asks volunteers to visit an elderly resident on a regular basis to provide companionship.

The Phone Pal program is similar, but allows volunteers to call home-bound seniors instead of requiring an in-person visit, which can be difficult for a working person or those with kids.

Brosnan said the new programs “are vital to helping residents stay independent in their home as long as possible.”

In particular, she said, “We are seeing more and more research out there indicating that loneliness and social isolation is having a negative impact on the mental and physical health of seniors.”

Brosnan also said while the Handy Helper program is only focused on small, routine tasks, “it makes a world of difference in a senior being able to stay in their home longer,” especially if they’re no longer physically able to do the work themselves.

She said anyone volunteering to take part in the new age-friendly programs will receive training and support from the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, and while Community Services has had “positive interest,” it still needs committed volunteers.

Brosnan said volunteers can set their own hours, as long as they are consistent in terms of visiting or calling their assigned senior. “There are so many benefits to volunteering,” she added.

There’s the personal enrichment from creating a new relationship and there’s the satisfaction of making a difference in the life of a senior, as well as the wider opportunity to serve the community and make key contacts, she said.

Organizers hope the new programs will have a positive impact on the seniors’ overall well-being, Brosnan said, “whether it’s making a new friend or having someone they can (rely) on to help change that light bulb they can’t safely change by themselves anymore.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

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