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Dutchess County's "Friendly Calls" program connects seniors with volunteers for weekly phone chats

"Friendly Calls" program connects lonely seniors with volunteers for weekly phone chats
"Friendly Calls" program connects lonely seniors with volunteers for weekly phone chats 02:31

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Pretty much everyone knows what a pen pal is, but what about a phone pal?

Dutchess County's Office for the Aging has started a program centered around it to help seniors experiencing loneliness. 

"When you don't go out and see anybody, you look forward to it," said 83-year-old Kathleen Crepezzi.
"It's someone to talk to. Otherwise it gets very lonely."  

It's more than a phone call. It's a lifeline, she told CBS2's John Dias.

Crepezzi has five kids who call frequently, but every additional voice she hears on the phone connects her to the outside world. She lives alone and craves human interaction. 

Loneliness is a serious sentiment, often shared by seniors. That's why the county started the "Friendly Calls" program in January. Already, 60 seniors have signed up.  

The initiative connects the seniors with volunteers, who only need a phone, a friendly personality and the willingness to have an uplifting conversation.  

"A lot of seniors, even if they have families, their families are busy and working," said Sue Serino, communications specialist at the Dutchess County Office for the Aging. "So it's really nice to have another friend just to talk to." 

Todd Tancredi, director of the Office for the Aging, believes the initiative is needed now more than ever. 

"The pandemic was almost an incubator for social isolation and loneliness," said Tancredi. "The problem that was there before the pandemic, is even greater after it." 

Every volunteer is trained before making any phone calls. Then, they call their selected senior at least once a week and speak for 20 to 30 minutes.

The program has now started to attract college students. 

"There is just so much to learn about this population," said Niza Antonio, a senior at Marist College. "Get to know who they are, what make them them." 

Volunteers commit to making phone calls for eight weeks.   

For more information about the program, you can CLICK HERE or call 845-486-2555

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