Group offers phone chat line for seniors left isolated by pandemic

For many seniors, their telephone is their lifeline to the outside world, especially during the pandemic.  And a new service from an advocacy group is hoping to offer a sympathetic ear over the phone for lonely seniors.

"Mostly, I just like meeting all the people," said Caitlin Enright a volunteer with Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly. "There is never one conversation that is the same."

"It's definitely a health crisis out there of how many people are experiencing loneliness especially in older adults and how many people are actually dying from it."

Advocacy group Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly has launched a free drop-in chat line that puts senior citizens in touch with volunteers who understand what they are going through.

The group says older adults across the state can call "Coffee Talk" at 612-746-0728 or 877-238-2282 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon for a little conversation, companionship, and connection.

"We are all feeling the effects of the pandemic so some people feel the impact more than others. I think older adults who don't have a support system or don't have their family or friends they just need someone to talk to plain and simple."

The group says COVID-19 restrictions have made many seniors, particularly those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, feel increasingly lonely, isolated and depressed. But with Coffee Talk, they don't have to register, make an appointment, or even give their name in order to be heard and valued by the person on the other end of the line.

"Lots of folks who call in love to reminisce. Love to give advice. Love to feel like they are also contributing to their community just by calling and talking to folks."

The non-profit received a $100,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to get the chat line off the ground. It hopes Minnesota seniors start their day with a cup of "Coffee Talk" until the pandemic is over.

"I'm hoping that it will grow and more people will share with their friends and try it out and more volunteers will be excited to do it. Its been just a rewarding for me as it is for anyone calling in."