John Barry with Visitor Volunteer Bette Fish

Friendly Visitor Program Helps This Elder Remain Independent

Every Wednesday morning, ninety-six year old John Barry of Salem anticipates the arrival of a very special visitor. For over a year now, John and North Shore Elder Services’ friendly visitor volunteer, Bette Fish of Topsfield, have been meeting in John’s home.  Theirs has been a perfect match.  Bette has been participating in the Friendly Visitor program with North Shore Elder Services (NSES) for ten years.  When Bette retired, she joined NSES’ Money Management program as a volunteer initially.  John is only her second senior to form a relationship with as a companion.  Previously she spent almost ten years with another gentleman.

John insists he couldn’t do without Bette. “She’s wonderful.  I can discuss things with Bette.  Her opinions are neutral because she isn’t family.  She’s become a part of me.  I so look forward to her visits because I can talk to her.  She’s better than the Seven Wonders.”

Bette remembers that the first time she talked to John on the phone she could tell he was a kidder. “I like someone with a sense of humor.  We got along the first time we met; it was very easy for both of us to have a conversation.  We never lack for something to talk about.”

John enjoys sharing stories about his forty-one year career as an airline mechanic with Eastern Airlines, first at LaGuardia in New York and then at Logan in Boston. It is a career he takes great pride in.

Maintaining his independence is a priority for John. He receives home delivered meals and has a Lifeline.  A son currently lives in the same home and his two daughters (one in state and one in Maryland) call regularly on a daily basis to check on their father.  He also has good neighbors who visit with John and watch out for him.

John lost his wife Clara a year ago. He is familiar with the services NSES is able to offer.  As a caregiver for several years to Clara, he hired outside help.  He kept Clara at home as long as he was able to manage.  She eventually went to a long-term care home.

John is determined to make things work for him so that he can remain in his own home; he has a system for everything to assist in things running smoothly. After seeing two wives live their remaining time in a long term care community, he declares that he does not want to end up anywhere other than his own home.  That is why he is so appreciative of the availability of the Friendly Visitor program.  “I can’t say enough about Bette.  She is exceptional.  She is saving lives through her volunteer work.”  As a caregiver and now a care recipient, John has had a positive experience with all NSES’ Care Managers through the years.  “They have always been willing to offer help and have been so eager to bend over backwards for me.”

Bette reminds John that, “It works both ways. I love coming here.  We have a lot of fun.”  Bette describes John as an old-fashioned gentleman.  He insists on being clean shaven and dressed (a left over practice from his working years when he always needed to look presentable) whenever someone will be visiting.  When it is time for Bette to leave, John makes sure he walks her to the door.  When Bette first started coming to John’s home, he asked to meet Bette’s husband.  He felt it was only proper if inviting a woman into one’s home.

The friendly visitor program is one of the many volunteer opportunities at NSES. We are always interested in matching one of our seniors with a visitor.  It can make the difference in someone being able to remain living in the home of their choice.  If you enjoy being with the older generation and have a couple of hours to spare each week, this could be the perfect way of giving back to your community.  If you would like to help us in our mission of serving, check out our website at https://nselder.org/about-our-volunteers-2/  or call North Shore Elder Services at 978-750-4540 for more information.


Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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