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'Drop-in' phone line to provide companionship for lonely older adults

Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly aims to connect seniors with volunteers for friendly conversation, support, and access to resources.
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MINNEAPOLIS — The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the mental health of people from all age groups, but perhaps none have been affected as much as older adults. Dangers posed by contracting the virus have left many seniors isolated and cut off from family, friends and those who care about them. 

As the pandemic stretches on, Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly (LBFE) is trying to throw a lifeline of sorts to those who need connection with a drop-in phone chat line they're calling "Coffee Talk." The goal is to pair older adults from across Minnesota with a caring volunteer for friendly conversation, support, and access to resources that might help their well-being. 

Callers don't have to register or make an appointment and they are welcome to call as often as they'd like during the line's hours of operation, which are Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and Noon. Seniors in the Twin Cities metro can call 612-746-0728, while outstate callers are encouraged to use the toll-free number 877-238-2282.

LBFE says Coffee Talk will be staffed by volunteers who understand the unique needs and challenges of Minnesota's older population in the midst of a pandemic, and can support them with words of encouragement and an understanding ear. 

"We are excited to provide at-risk older adults across the state with another phone-based option for social connection, one that is convenient and barrier-free," said James Falvey, executive director for Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly. "Shame and stigma often accompany loneliness, and Coffee Talk provides an anonymous way for older adults to take active steps in improving their overall wellbeing."

LBFE conducted a test phase of the service with a group of older adults prior to launching statewide. As the program expands throughout Minnesota hours of operation will be adjusted to accommodate increased call volume if needed. 

The Coffee Talk line is funded in part by a "Live Well at Home" grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. To learn more about Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly and its programs, check out the organization's website.