'You're Not Alone' program helps shelter-in-place seniors stay connected during COVID-19 outbreak

PETALUMA, Calif. -- Elece Hempel, Executive Director of the Petaluma Senior Services Center casually sits in the center's Senior Café. Filled with rows of empty tables and chairs, the room feels unusually lonely. "Nutrition is very, very important, but the connection to other individuals has always been the key to this program," she said. For many seniors, the opportunity to form social connections is limited due to California's shelter-in-place order.

Hempel expressed the seniors' concerns during the COVID-19 outbreak, "The seniors said to us, 'But we're going to be alone...who am I going to talk too?'" In response, she built a program called, "You're Not Alone," which provides community members with a safe way to reach out and speak with a senior every day.