C2R Virtual Visits

Who we are
Conversations to Remember is a nonprofit organization that arranges for high school and college student volunteers to have weekly virtual visits with senior citizens. There is no fee for any participant in the program. Our goal is simply to put a smile on the face of seniors by showing them that we care. Seniors are welcome to participate in this program, as long as they have access to the technology required for a video visit, and we can be assured that they will be consistently able to attend their visits. Seniors experiencing cognitive decline are welcome to participate in the program if their caregivers believe that they can benefit from it.

What we do
Conversations to Remember has a very different focus than other senior living activity programs. Our weekly virtual visits are not focused on a group, but, rather, individuals. Surveys show that more than 40% of seniors often experience feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is not the state of being alone. It is a subjective feeling – the distress caused by feeling alone, even in a crowd. It is the difference between what a person thinks they have and what they want. Many seniors can get temporary relief from their loneliness by engaging in a large group activity. Others, though, require more personal, extended interaction. This is just as important for their mental state as exercise is for their physical well-being. This is the gap that we’re filling.
Nothing can surpass the warm touch of a loved one to relieve the anxiety of being alone. Conversations to Remember is not competing with the seniors’ families. How could we? We’re supplementing that love with the friendship and compassion of our volunteers. We’re adding one additional group of people – in addition to the family, and/or caregivers that support them – who are interested in them, and happy to speak to them as long as they want. Care staff in senior living communities are not able to dedicate all of their time to a single resident, but they can assist the resident in beginning their visit with our volunteers, where the resident will experience two to three students who are there just for them.
Not all seniors are looking for the same thing from our volunteers. Some seniors want to actively lead the conversation, and tell the students all about their day and their life. In fact, if the students were ever to run out of questions for them, they’d want new students to teach. At the other end of the spectrum, some seniors just want to join the students in their virtual chat, just listening to the students talk to each other about their lives, and occasionally participate with their own input. As part of our training, we teach our volunteers to recognize what the senior is looking for today – since they might have different interests today than last week – and to provide that type of conversation.
While we are oriented towards the individual senior, that doesn’t mean that our program is not scalable. Many communities that we deal with – be they assisted living residences, nursing homes, long-term care communities, skilled nursing facilities, memory care units, group homes, or continuing care communities – have multiple residents engaging in our visits at the same time. They have multiple visits per day. For those seniors who can benefit from it, we provide multiple visits per week.

What we need from you
It should be noted that our visits do require the involvement of caregivers, be they in-home caregivers, family, or caregivers in senior living communities. We’re looking for your assistance coordinating when the senior is available for their visits, as well as reminding them that their visit is approaching. Due to cognitive decline that many seniors are experiencing, they often require assistance starting their virtual visits, or reconnecting them if they accidentally hang up. While many seniors may be able to conduct these visits without any assistance, we still require the commitment of their community or caregiver to assist them if necessary. Unfortunately, we’re not able to accept residents into the program who do not have community support unless they have a private caregiver assisting them.

Weekly Visits
Once a Senior is enrolled in our program, we arrange for students to visit with them once a week, at a time that is convenient for the senior and their caregivers. Each visit will be scheduled with two to three students. Multiple students adds more variety to the conversation, and reduces the chances of awkward conversation moments when nobody has anything to say. In fact, we train our students to avoid these awkward moments through our training and practice calls. All new students are required to participate in our ‘mock call’ training, where they speak with a trainer who role plays as a senior. Only those students who are able to excel at this training are invited to sign up for visits with seniors. This ensures that our students will be better prepared to engage in enjoyable conversation with any senior.
The C2R style of visit is intended to be low key. Students are trained that they are not to engage in interview style visits: they are not writing a book about the senior they’re visiting. Rather, they are here to share their own stories, just as much as they’re here to listen to the senior. This creates a low-pressure environment where seniors can be comfortable whether they’re “a talker” or just someone who wants to sip their tea and listen to the students talk about their lives. This allows a senior who is experiencing cognitive decline to comfortably participate in the conversation, even when they’re having more difficult days.
We require our students to allocate an hour to each visit that they participate in. That does not mean that the senior is obligated to spend an hour visiting with them, it just means that the student needs to be available. If the senior is only interested in visiting for ten minutes, then that is okay – the visit is for their benefit only and should not be a burden. If the senior wants to visit for over an hour, then we’ll work to arrange additional visits for them. Of course, if the students are available to speak for more than the hour that they’ve allocated, they are free to do so.