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Friendly phone chats uplift Hudson seniors’ spirit

Alexandria “Alex” Boule
Photo/submitted

By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer

Hudson – A number of seniors in Hudson have found a simple way to avoid loneliness. They’ve enjoyed friendly phone calls with Alexandria “Alex” Boule, a 2013 Hudson High School alum. While studying at Regis College as a social work major, she inquired about an internship last summer at the Hudson Senior Center with its director Janice Long. That meeting resulted in a new program for the center known as Friendly Chat.

Long had observed the success of the United Way of Tri-County’s TeleCheck, a telephone check-in service for elder adults living at home. She and the senior center staff had been considering ways to implement a similar program. Long arranged for Boule to meet with Eileen Davis, the TeleCheck director.

“Eileen was very helpful to Alex,” Long noted. “This is a program we had talked about doing at the center for over three years. When Alex came asking for an internship, I thought we could now try this as a pilot program.”

The program launched as field placement internship for Boule. Hours were credited toward her theory and practice class as she gained social worker skills. She studied two classes online and one on the college campus. Then she conducted the Friendly Chat program at the senior center two days a week.

The center’s newsletter published an announcement for the program and phone calls began last fall. Boule was eager to speak with the callers.

“This gives them someone to talk with about anything that’s going on in their life,” Boule explained. “A lot of people talk about their past histories and what they did when they were young children. Some of their stories are very touching. I’m glad that I’m able to hear them.”

Lengths of conversations have ranged from about 20 minutes to over an hour. Topics of the phone exchanges have also been diverse – from pets to serious health concerns.

“We do talk about issues they’re having, but I try to keep the conversation light so that it’s not on their mind for a moment,” Boule noted. “A woman talked with me for an hour about her cat, which distracted her and she was laughing. It brought up good memories for her.”

Boule met a couple of the program participants in person while they visited the center for lunch or an activity.

“This program is mostly for homebound seniors who can’t leave their homes,” she said. “But there are other people who would rather come in and talk with me face to face.”

On May 6, Boule graduated from Regis College with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Now, she’s attending graduate school at Wheelock College, where she’s pursuing her master’s in social work. During the several weeks between schools, Boule continued volunteering for the Friendly Chat program she helped start at the Hudson Senior Center. Long has reached out to local clergy to speak by phone with seniors until another student intern fills the position.

“Alex will be hard to replace,” Long shared. “We have all grown to love Alex and will miss her very much. She was able to take the program we had talked about for years and turn it into a meaningful, helpful and supportive project. She promises to keep in touch once at grad school. We have been blessed to have her.”

For Boule, the Friendly Chat program has perhaps been her most valuable lesson learned while studying social work.

“I didn’t know there were so many people that need this kind of support,” she acknowledged. “There are many homebound people who can’t get out and don’t have a lot of family nearby. It’s really sad because it’s making them isolated and some are suffering from depression. Learning about other people’s experiences and talking with them has been really rewarding for me. Some of the people I’ve talked with have really come a long way since our first phone call.”

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