Stories of Service
Senior Companions - Kalamazoo County
Lyn Harn says there was a time in her life when she was actually shy; that shyness has long departed and she has devoted her life to engaging with people—especially seniors. For her, this isn’t a task, but rather, a totally fulfilling experience.
Lyn is an AmeriCorps Seniors volunteer in the Senior Companion program; she began in 2015/16 shortly after her husband, Elmer, passed. She fondly credits Elmer as the person who drew her out of her shell and, by example, was so genuinely kind and caring toward everyone.
She and Elmer had lived both in Kalamazoo (where she was born) and Mattawan where they settled. After Elmer’s passing, she moved into an apartment in Kalamazoo. Apartment life was more manageable, but she recognized that something was missing—meaningful engagement with people. Luckily, she quickly became friends with a woman who lived in the same complex who happened to be a Senior Companion in her younger years. Her new friend told her about her marvelous experience volunteering to help others.
Lyn called Milestone Senior Services to inquire about becoming a companion herself. After some valuable all-encompassing training, Lyn took on her first senior and has loved being a companion ever since. She has had seven or eight individuals with whom she’s eagerly met once a week for a delightful afternoon together. Lyn is a senior companion four days a week.
Lyn says it isn’t complicated—just being with someone naturally opens and builds relationships. It’s the beautiful stories, the smiles, the laughs, the tears, and the “just having someone to talk to” that means so much to these seniors—and to Lyn. Sometimes it is a short trip out to buy groceries or go to a doctor’s appointment, or, staying in to play a game of cards or work on a puzzle together. For Lyn, the key word is “together.” That connection is something we all crave. The Senior Companion program fulfills that need—especially for those who live alone.
One often assumes that it’s the “big things” we do that are so important; but Lyn will attest it is really the “small things” that make a big difference in so many lives. That’s what she learned from Elmer so long ago. His genuine, heartfelt affection for people in general touched the lives of so many and it was Elmer who set the example she cherishes to this day.
Lyn says, “Being a Senior Companion has been the most fulfilling and satisfying project I have ever been involved in. Through helping them have a super day and someone to be with and talk to, you are helping yourself also—a win-win situation.”
She adds, “I treat my people the way I want to be treated when my time comes!”