By Becca Robbins

On Aug. 6, 2017, an 82 year-old man in Umatilla County received the first phone call of a weekly Oregon senior peer support service.

Seniors age 55 and older who are feeling lonely or isolated have a new way to beat the solitude.

The Oregon Senior Peer Outreach program connects rural Oregonians with fellow seniors who are trained in behavioral health and peer support services with a 20- to 30-minute weekly phone call.

Sharon Kuehn, program manager of the Heppner-based Community Counseling Solutions (CCS), said once a person or someone they know fills out a referral form, she will call the senior, often with the person who referred them if they didn’t refer themselves, to get to know more about the senior. Then Kuehn will match the person with a senior peer support specialist who will be calling them each week.

Todd Trautner, the program’s supervisor, said that once a person is added to a specialist’s call list, that is who will call them every week.

“Specialists are attached at the hip with the seniors on their call load,” said Trautner. “It builds consistency.”

Trautner said it’s important that they connect these people with a fellow senior who has “lived experiences” and can relate.

“A peer is anyone who can self-identify and can admit that they too struggle and have issues,” said Trautner. “Everyone has a different story, everyone has a different experience. They’re more of a friend or someone that understands you.”

See more in the July 13, 2018 issue of the Baker City Herald