Why We Do This
“Simple acts of tender mercy will eventually tilt the earth on its axis and, slowly, the world will be changed. For more than three decades, The Singer Institute has been devoted to reviving the human spirit for lost and lonely people.”
--Dr. Suzsanne Singer, Senior Connections Founder and Director
America is aging and the time for Senior Connectionsis now. The number of seniors over 65 will double to 70.3 million by 2030. In other words, in the next 20 years, there will be twice as many older adults who will either need care or will be looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities. The Singer Institute created Senior Connections 10 years ago to address both needs.
Our goal is to provide some of the elderly and most needy Long-Term Care facility residents with the opportunity to form a significant and meaningful relationship with a trusted and caring adult. Toward that end, we recruit, screen and train volunteers and monitor, support and evaluate their effort. In short, we want to create a grass roots movement, both here in St. Louis and across the country, for a new way of caring for our isolated elderly as their numbers continue to climb.
Senior Connections provides an original and rather inexpensive approach to combating the detrimental affects of social isolation faced by so many of our seniors in long term care facilities.
Carefully screened independent seniors receive training, support, and continuing education which enable them to establish meaningful relationships with their residents. The Senior Connections training, The Good Neighbor Course, was designed by The Singer Institute in collaboration with St. Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Volunteers also attend quarterly support group meetings for consultation and education on topics such as grieving and end of life issues. We offer training consistently throughout the year, as some volunteers need to take a leave of absence for personal or health reasons.
Come join us as we grow -- resident need only continues to increase and Senior Connections is a wonderful way for active seniors to give back to the community in a meaningful way.
Suzsanne Singer was born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria, where she lived under Nazi occupation. Despite being the child of a Jewish father and crippled from tuberculosis, she managed to survive. After the war, she earned doctorate degrees in psychology and philology from the University of Vienna.
Suzsanne came to the United States in 1946. She created The Singer Institute in 1970 and devoted herself to helping severely disturbed young people. She and her staff created a unique home environment that was amazingly bright, cheerful, and inviting. Even more remarkable was the youngsters’ response. Suzsanne had an uncanny ability to firmly yet lovingly guide even the most troubled children toward constructive behavior. Despite operating with meager means, they always provided sustenance, love, hope, and joy.
While continuing to help a limited number of adolescents, in 1999 Suzsanne shifted from the extreme daily demands of serving troubled youth. Going to the other end of the age spectrum, she created Senior Connections (formerly called Community Connections), a program that trains “young seniors” to provide volunteer companionship for nursing home residents who receive few, if any, outside visitors. To ensure quality, she collaborated with the St. Louis University Department of Gero-Psychiatry in designing the volunteer training and ongoing volunteer support.
In 2000, Suzsanne suffered a stroke, but that did not stop her work. Despite confinement to a wheel chair, she has kept Senior Connections thriving. As always, she and her staff are approaching the challenge with enthusiasm and compassion.
During the 35 years that Suzsanne worked with emotionally disturbed youth, The Singer Institute served approximately 200 youngsters. Based on a study conducted by St. Louis University, approximately 67% eventually became socially functional adults who were able to move on and lead happy, productive lives.
Beyond stabilizing the lives of the residents themselves, the program also helped desperate families find peace, joy, and hope in the recovery of their loved ones. Society is now benefiting from their contributions instead of needing to provide the institutionalized support that the children otherwise would have required.
Senior Connections offers even greater promise in terms of numbers. Since 2000, approximately 150 isolated nursing home residents in the St. Louis area have been served by more than 80 trained relational volunteers. Aside from benefiting the residents and their companions, families also benefit from seeing elderly loved ones enjoying happier, more positive lives. Additionally, the overall climate is enhanced in nursing homes through the Senior Connections program.
In recognition of Suzsanne’s work and character, the Ethical Society of St. Louis recognized her in 2005 with their most prestigious honor – the Ethical Humanist of the Year Award.