By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – A number of seniors in Hudson have found a simple way to avoid loneliness. They’re enjoying friendly phone calls with Alexandria “Alex” Boule, a 2013 Hudson High School alum. Now, she’s finishing her last semester as a social work major at Regis College.
Boule shared an idea last summer with Janice Long, director of the Hudson Senior Center. They discussed the possibility of starting a program called Friendly Chat. The center’s newsletter published an announcement for the program and phone calls began last fall.
“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 are ranging from about 20 minutes to over an hour. Topics of the phone exchanges are also 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.”
When a senior contacts the center to express interest in Friendly Chat, Boule typically arranges a day and time to make a weekly call. She has met a couple of the program participants in person while they’re visiting 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.”
The Friendly Chat program launched as field placement internship for Boule. Hours are credited toward her theory and practice class as she gains social worker skills. She’s studying two classes online and one on the college campus. Then she conducts the Friendly Chat program at the senior center two days a week.
“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 isolate and some are suffering from depression.”
Boule strives to apply lessons she’s learned from her social work studies while interacting with seniors by phone.
“There are specific ways that I talk with them to get more information because some seniors are shy and it’s hard for them to communicate right away,” she said. “Learning about other people’s experiences and talking with them has been really rewarding for me.”
Boule will graduate from Regis College in May. She has applied to a couple graduate schools and plans to study for her master’s degree this summer.
“Janice mentioned to my professor that they could have another intern from Regis come here next year,” Boule noted. “Even after I graduate, I’m still planning to volunteer here in the summer because I really love the program and the people. I want to stay in touch and help them. Some of the people I’ve talked with have really come a long way since our first phone call.”
Seniors interested in Friendly Chat can call the Hudson Senior Center at 978-568-9638 Tuesdays or Fridays. Tell them you’re calling for Alex.