Wink Newman and Ann Wardlow have a lot in common.

Both are widows, both grandmothers and both caring friends.

They spend time together each week. Wednesday afternoons usually finds them playing Yahtzee after going out for lunch.

Both say their relationship adds something to their lives — a source camaraderie and support.

Ann is a Senior Companion volunteer and Wink is her client of five years.

“I read about the program in the newspaper,” Ann said. “I had had surgery on my knees, and I said, ‘boy, if I can get up and get around I’d really like to do something to help someone because people were there for me.’”

It’s in that spirit that the 67-year-old has been giving back ever since.

As a Senior Companion volunteer Ann was paired with Wink, who was new to Claremore at the time.

“Then my husband passed away and I had been in the hospital a couple of times with pneumonia,” Wink recalled. “I was so weak, I could hardly get around, and I thought, ‘I need somebody to check on me.’

“Ann and I just have a ball; it’s something to look forward to.”

The Senior Companion program assigns volunteers age 60 and older to three to five clients that they spend two to four hours with each week.

“The activities depend on the needs of the client,” said Celene Windle, Senior Companion site supervisor. “We try to place clients with volunteers that share similar interests and talents.”

“All your clients have different needs,” Ann said. “You just go with the flow.”

Many times that means providing transportation to the grocery store, doctor’s office and beauty shop.

“It’s also a great safety check for people who live alone,” Windle said.

Many clients are homebound with no family support, according to Windle, and their companion provides a “link to the rest of the world. We also do a lot of respite as well, for people caring for a family member.”

Still, for all her effort, Ann says her clients provide her something in return.

“Wink is not only one of my clients, I count her as my friend,” Ann said. “She helps me more than I help her.”

Windle says that the client and volunteer develop a bond and many times stay together for years.

“Our volunteers go well beyond the scope of their work to care for their clients,” she said. “They give so much of themselves to make someone else’s life better.”

Currently, there are 15 volunteers serving all of Rogers County, but more are desperately needed.

Windle says that she has volunteers from age 60 to 84. Clients range in age from 60 to 100.

“Some of our clients are men who have lost driving privileges and are lonely, depressed and unable to ask for help as well as women do,” she said. “Sometimes the hard part is getting the client to accept help because they’ve been caring for others for so long. But after the first visit, it’s a go.”

The Senior Companion program accepts referrals from doctors and other agencies.

Monthly in-service meetings bring in experts on aging issues to speak to volunteers who in turn pass the information on to their clients.

The only qualification to be a client is that individuals are over age 60 and “have a need,” Windle said. There is no charge or financial requirement.

Volunteers must pass an OSBI check and physical. They also have to complete 40 hours of training. They receive a stipend and are paid travel expenses to and from the client’s home.

For more information about the Senior Companion program, call Celene Windle at the Rogers County Health Department, 341-3166 ext. 291.

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