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Santa Clara County Volunteers Keep Watch on Homebound Seniors During Pandemic Lockdown

SANTA CLARA (KPIX) -- When Santa Clara county's shelter-in-place order went into effect last month, senior citizens who depend on a non-profit organization for services suddenly found themselves cut off from the volunteers who help them with everything from getting to doctor's appointments, gardening and even home repairs.

But volunteers of Heart of the Valley, which serves senior citizens who are 65 years or older in west Santa Clara county, knew their work must somehow must go on.

Instead of home visits, they are now making "Friendly Calls." Every week senior citizens who take part in the program, especially those who are homebound, receive a call from a volunteer who checks on them. Conversations can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, according to volunteer Cyndi Goble.

"Oh my gosh, I've had someone break out into tears to say, 'I am so thankful that you called,'" said Goble. "It's just really to let them know they haven't been forgotten, and it makes their day because they're scared, they really are."

"They have people calling every week to check on me, make sure I'm still kicking and alive," said Tim Diamond.

The 78-year-old San Jose resident has used Heart of the Valley services for two years and said the organization has helped him when he couldn't rely on family members, friends or neighbors.

"Makes me feel a heck of a lot better because I live by myself, I'm retired on a fixed income and I don't drive, don't get around much anymore," Diamond said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly about the concern for senior citizens physical, as well as emotional and mental health during the pandemic; especially for those who live alone.

Experts have said that it's important during the stay-at-home-order to reach out to senior citizens because it could save lives.

"Where they are lonely, that's where we really worry about increased risk of depression and unfortunately, suicide is also a concern, older adults have very high suicide rates," said UCSF Professor of Sociology Stacy Torres.

Diamond described the weekly calls he receives from his volunteer as a "blessing."

"That means a lot to me," Diamond said. "I'd say my life would be more of a struggle, definitely."

Heart of the Valley is continuing to take senior 65 years or older who want Friendly Calls. Call 408-241-1571 for eligibility.

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