Program brings community members together, builds friendships

A few times a week, Joe Marmion picks up the phone and talks to his friend Lorraine, an 85-year old resident of Sun City. He checks in with her and they chat; once a week, the two of them get together and go somewhere, or just spend time together.

Joe and Lorraine didn’t know each other until six months ago, when he became a volunteer for the Senior Companion Program through a non-profit agency called Senior Services Associates. Since then, it’s hard to tell who looks forward more to their regular chats.

Sun City resident Joe Marmion met Loraine through the Senior Companion Program, a program designed to match community members with common interests in an attempt to build companionship and friendship. (Photo by Chris LaPelusa/Sun Day)

Sun City resident Joe Marmion met Loraine through the Senior Companion Program, a program designed to match community members with common interests in an attempt to build companionship and friendship. (Photo by Chris LaPelusa/Sun Day)

“These friendships grow up,” said Marmion, who connected with Senior Services through an outreach ministry at the church he attends, St. Mary. “You can’t meet someone else and not become intrigued by their history and experiences — especially someone who’s 85. They’ve gone through so many changes: technology changes, cultural changes. [The Senior Companion Program] is a neat way to match people with common interests and see if a friendship grows. In this case, it did.”

These person-to-person connections are a big part why Marmion believes Senior Services plays a vital role in the senior community—he serves on the Board and believes strongly in their mission to keep seniors in their homes for as long as possible.

“I’m very impressed with this agency,” he said. “It’s been around a long time. It knows its way around the block in dealing with state and federal programs.”

Senior Services Associates started as an Adult Daycare Center over 40 years ago, but it’s grown and expanded over the years to encompass a wealth of resources for seniors.

“People have a lot of questions in their senior years,” said Leslie Edstrom, Marketing and Fund Development Director for Senior Services Associates. “They may have a spouse who’s fallen ill, and they have to start caregiving in their home.” Edstrom says these sudden changes can feel overwhelming for seniors and their families.

Case management coordinators can come to a senior’s home and do a Comprehensive Care Assessment—these are free without any income requirement. From that, Senior Services Associates can make referrals for personal care, meal delivery, transportation help for doctor’s visits, light housekeeping, respite services, or financial assistance.

Oftentimes, said Edstrom, “people have planned for their future, but then a spouse gets sick. Medications are so expensive. They get into a financial crisis. When they sit down with assistance specialist, they can relieve some of that financial burden, just by plugging in benefits they didn’t know they qualified for.”

Recreation a part of staying healthy

Staying active is a big part of staying healthy and independent, which is why Senior Services focuses on recreational activities at their senior centers. Fit and Strong is a popular exercise program using evidence-based movements that are proven to have a positive impact on seniors.

“My mom is recuperating from cancer,” said Edstrom, “and the medication she takes is hard on her joints.” Attending exercise classes three times a week has helped her manage her joint pain.” Another class, called “Matter of Balance” is a fall prevention class run in partnership with the Huntley Park District.

“These classes are growing by leaps and bounds in terms of popularity,” said Edstrom. In January, the goal is to expand and do classes at Del Webb.

‘The essence of what we do’

Marmion says Kane and McHenry Counties are some of the fastest growing counties for seniors, resulting in a strong focus on programs for senior living.” Non-profits like Senior Services Associates are an effective way to connect seniors to resources they need in an efficient manner.

“In terms of quality of life, the first step is that people understand that someone cares about them,” said Marmion.

Edstrom, who’s worked in various capacities with Senior Services Associates over the past nine years, remember fondly on the times she worked as a care coordinator. “I loved getting out in the community,” she said. “You’d go to a client’s home and they’d answer the door very stressed, concerned, or worried about how they’ll pay their bills.”

Edstrom would sit down and talk over options, perhaps filling out an energy assistance application with the client.

“By the time we leave, they have a big smile on their face and you can just see the stress leaving their bodies. They know they’re going to be okay,” she said. “That’s what I love about this organization. We try to make these years as wonderful as possible, keeping everyone safe and secure. That’s the essence of what we do.”

The agency has five offices in three counties: in Kane County, there are offices in Elgin and Aurora; for McHenry County, offices are in Crystal Lake and McHenry, and the Yorkville office serves Kendall County. Residents of Del Webb are typically served by care coordinators in Crystal Lake.

For more information, including volunteer opportunities, emergency services, adult protective services and recreation activities, visit

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