Small kindnesses can be huge to elders who are shut in

A phone call, a note, something from the garden could help keep a senior from slipping away, PD columnist Chris Smith shares.|

A phone call, a note, something from the garden could help keep a senior from slipping away

What you’d like to do is stack a platter with your most fabulous home-baked cookies and head out to offer them to isolated and hurting elders, sitting a spell with those who’d savor a bit of conversation.

But you can’t.

I’ve spoken with a number of caring people who’ve struck upon next-best things to do for seniors, many of whom wither alone in defensive quarantine from the pandemic.

“I myself phone 22 seniors every other Thursday, just to see how they’re doing,” said Carmen Taylor.

A widowed resident of a retirement complex in Santa Rosa, Carmen is no kid herself. “I’m going to be 88 in about two weeks,” she said.

She volunteers with the I’m Home Alone program of Catholic Charities. It, like the Petaluma People Services Center’s You Are Not Alone program (, enlists volunteers to become regular phone pals of elders who are mostly or entirely shut in.

Carmen is sure she gets as much from the conversations as the people she calls.

“They’re lonely,” she said. “Some of them look at me as a friend.”

Phone calls and other efforts to connect with seniors might never have been more important than right now, with so many of them in despair from being cut off from family and friends and normal life.

“I realize our calls are lasting longer as the months go by,” said Michelle Osmon, coordinator of the Catholic Charities program. The elders’ hunger for human connection, even telephonic, grows as their isolation is prolonged.

“They count on their call,” said Osmon. She welcomes potential I’m Home Alone volunteers to phone Catholic Charities at 528-8712, extension 160, or go to


FROM OAKMONT, Karen Oswald shares: “Many of us make daily efforts to connect with those of our friends who no longer have a spouse or partner to help alleviate the impact of being isolated.”

Karen and other Oakmonters are phoning such neighbors or speaking with them while masked and safely distanced, and they’re offering them garden-grown fruits and veggies — gathered with hand sanitizer, of course.


BIRDS CAN BRIGHTEN the life of an older person who’s stuck in a house or an apartment, or a room with a window.

John Goehring of the Toyworks family recommends taking a homebound senior a hummingbird or songbird feeder. Keeping it provisioned will be part of your pandemic-era labor of love.


CARDS AND LETTERS allow Marti Hoeft to stay connected to elders she cares about but these days is unable to go see in person.

“I feel a big void in my life because I cannot visit them,” said Marti, a Eucharistic minister with her parish.

So she writes to the seniors she called on before any of us had uttered “coronavirus.” She figures that even a brief note “can make a great impact on a lonely soul, and in return I feel much better, too.”

Marti loved it when a 103-year-old man she writes to mailed her a thank-you card and photo of himself. Most prominent in a reply from a woman who shares Marti’s passion for baseball was, “GO GIANTS!!!”

You can contact Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and

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