Skip to main content

Senior Companion Program: A Benefit to Seniors and Maine

Published March 31, 2012

By Debra J. Eckart, Associate Extension Professor, and Margaret Ann Swain, Senior Companion Director, University of Maine

 

A Growing and Costly Issue

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Maine has the seventh oldest population in the nation. Fifteen percent of Maine’s population is age 65+ with nearly 30,000 residents age 85+.

 

Maine’s age 85+ population group is most likely to need long-term care services and this need will nearly double from 2007 to 2030.

 

As Maine’s population ages, the number of seniors needing extra assistance to live independently rises. Without this help, many older adults will have to move into costly long-term care facilities.

There is also an increasing need to offer respite for caregivers.

 

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Responds

For the past 30 years, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Senior Companion Program has provided a cost effective solution to help Maine’s older adults remain in their own homes.

 

In 2010, 100 Senior Companions served 500 clients throughout the state.

 

The Senior Companion Program offers an opportunity for volunteers with limited incomes to provide companionship and non-medical support to older adults who are homebound and/or isolated.

 

Senior Companions attend monthly regional professional development trainings to build and enhance skills and to provide new information relative to their client assignments. Topics discussed during training include nutrition and wellness, eldercare issues, consumer fraud, interpersonal skills and emergency preparedness.

 

Economic Benefits

The program encourages the independence of Maine’s senior population, especially limited-income seniors, and increases their likelihood of remaining in their homes.

 

The Senior Companion Program staff estimated that 63 individuals or about fifteen percent of those participating in the program would likely need to live in long-term care facilities if they were not receiving assistance through this program. All 63 of these individuals are 90 years of age or older and have at least one chronic health condition.

 

The estimated nursing home cost savings for the 63 clients participating in the Senior Companion Program during 2010 are $4.6 Million. This represents a substantial financial savings to the state.

 

$ 4.6 Million Estimated Cost Savings to the State of Maine

 

References

AARP (2009). State Long-Term Care Brief, December, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2011 from http://www.aarp.org/relaionships/caregiving/info-12-2009/state_ltcb_09.html