Seeing isn't always believing

“One of the greatest things about having my Senior Companion is that she keeps me out of the Men’s Bathrooms” says Diane. That’s probably not the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when asked what they enjoy and value about their weekly visits with their Senior Companion Volunteer. But for Diane of Maplewood, that answer encapsulates both what is helpful to her practically and her desire to connect on a humorous and fun loving level to another person.
And that other person is Bonnie, a Senior Companion with Lutheran Social Service who recently celebrated her one year anniversary with the program. Diane and Bonnie have been visiting together for just over a year and have become fast friends. Diane has retitinitis pigmentosa which over time causes her to slowly lose her vision. She is a very active and healthy woman who is always on the go and is thankful for services such as Metro Mobility which keep her getting to many of the places she needs and wants to go. Sometimes though, it is immensely helpful to have a sighted friend with you for a handful of short errands. Often Bonnie will ask, “Where are we going today?” and Diane will answer “Everywhere!”
Bonnie learned about the program through her insurer, UCare and initially was on the waiting list to receive a Senior Companion of her own. Eventually though she realized that she would enjoy and benefit from BEING a companion so she started up serving four ladies of her own and hasn’t looked back. “It’s fun, I look forward to it and know my ladies all look forward to it too. It doesn’t really matter WHAT we are doing, as long as we’re doing something together. We like to laugh, don’t we?”
Diane wanted a volunteer first and foremost because of the companionship. It’s also helpful to have someone to help her with those smaller, short errands – getting there and help with navigating the stores and information available due to her limited vision which can be exhausting when doing several by herself. “Bonnie isn’t just a person who shows up on Fridays to do errands with me, we’ve become good friends.” They usually go out to breakfast and then tackle that week’s needs for Diane.
The benefits go both way for these ladies. When asked what they have learned from each other Diane says without hesitation, “Patience. And that there is give and take in any relationship – how to be conscious of another person’s needs and wants and not stay wrapped up in your own world.” Bonnie agreed with Diane and added that she has learned a great deal about vision loss and what is helpful and useful to someone when they are navigating the world.
As they got ready to head out for their morning adventures, they talk about what they have to do that day and where they are headed. “Sometimes we get lost, but we always find our way.”

-Ann Terlizzi