CARELINE Provides a Lifeline for Santa Barbara’s Isolated Seniors
Center for Successful Aging Program Is Just a Phone Call Away
By Leslie Dinaberg | August 25, 2022
A friendly voice on the other end of the phone is sometimes all that it takes to turn a bad day into a good one. This simple idea was the inspiration for CARELINE, a free service from the Center for Successful Aging — provided by seniors, for seniors.
More than 2,600 calls are made to seniors each year by this all-volunteer program, started by then-administrative director Gayle Golden back in the fall of 2010, with a grant of $5,000 from the Santa Barbara Foundation. “That it’s still going strong 12 years later is amazing in today’s organizational world,” said Golden. “I’m really proud that CSA has kept it going.”
Inspired by a few calls from people asking if CSA had a wellness call program, they decided to start one. LaShon Kelly, who is now the board president, was also involved in developing the program and running the first volunteer training, Golden said. “The two of us sometimes look back on that very first home visit that we made with an older woman who was living in a cottage, actually in Montecito. First we thought, Montecito, why does she need this program? Well, she was homebound and had no friends and no relatives. Her cottage was lovely, but she was unable to get out on her own. … She had nobody who would check on her. We went to visit her, and she was delightful. And she said, ‘You know, my biggest fear is that something will happen to me and nobody will find me.’”
That’s still basically the purpose of the program, Golden said. “Just to make sure that people get either once a week, or once a day calls … just to let people know that somebody cares to know if they’re still around.”
“There are people that have said to us, ‘Sometimes I go days without having any contact with anybody,’” said Clinical Director Gary Linker, PhD. They fear that if they died of a heart attack or a stroke, it could be days before anyone found them. In fact, Linker shared, this has happened in Santa Barbara. “So this is a real problem with seniors who are homebound, isolated, lonely, and sometimes, mentally ill.” Some of the participants are more worried about their pets than they are about themselves, said Linker.
CARELINE tries to set the calls at the same time of day every day (or whatever the agreed-upon schedule is) and the senior volunteers are assigned to specific people, so they develop a friendly peer relationship. It’s such a great service, said Linker. “I can’t understand why we don’t have hundreds of people participating, to be honest with you.”
CSA takes referrals from individuals and social workers or other health professionals. This service is available to any senior wishing to participate. For more information about the CARELINE and other services offered by the Center for Successful Aging, please visit csasb.org, call (805) 898-8080, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.