Students, older adults are Zoom Buddies

Cal Lutheran, senior communities start virtual visits

2020 Cal Lutheran alumna Tracy Thompson chats with Zoom Buddy Joanne Feltner, a resident of The Reserve.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Aug. 6, 2020) A new program is connecting California Lutheran University students and other volunteers with older adults for virtual visits while the COVID-19 pandemic limits social opportunities.

Zoom Buddies hold weekly 20-minute conversations via videoconference or phone. More than 30 pairs of buddies have been matched, and organizers are working to connect more volunteers with older adults who want to socialize

The program started when an administrator at The Reserve at Thousand Oaks senior living community asked Cindy Keitel, Cal Lutheran’s community relations coordinator, whether students might be willing to talk to lonely residents via Zoom or FaceTime.

“With reduced activities, no visitors and social-distancing policies, life at The Reserve has taken on a different pace than what our residents have become used to,” said Dylan Lacoe, director of sales. “Some of our residents have become a bit depressed and would just like someone to talk to.”

Keitel is working to match additional volunteers with older adults from University Village Thousand Oaks senior living community and other organizations.

More than half of the volunteers are Cal Lutheran students, and several are recent alumni. Many are local high school students who have had a difficult time finding volunteer opportunities because of COVID-19 restrictions. Cal Lutheran employees and local community members also volunteered.

“All the Zoom Buddies say they are loving it,” Keitel said.

Meagan Smith-Bocanegra of Camarillo was among the first Zoom Buddies to volunteer. She graduated from Cal Lutheran in May with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and is working toward a master’s degree in social work with a focus on older adults. She interned with the Senior Support Line offered by the Camarillo Health Care District, regularly visits and helps an older woman through Caregivers: Volunteers Assisting the Elderly and volunteers at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center.

“I definitely feel for these seniors right now, since I am immune-compromised and have been on lockdown since March,” Smith-Bocanegra said. “I greatly enjoyed my first conversation with my buddy, and I am thankful for this amazing opportunity.”

For more information on Zoom Buddies or to request a buddy for an older adult, contact Cindy Keitel at CommunityRelations@callutheran.edu.

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