Goodward, who lives alone, turned to the agency after a series of health setbacks, including surgery to remove lung cancer, hospitalization for pneumonia and a fall that left her with a broken shoulder.

About 10 months ago, Howdward found herself inexplicably tired and disoriented, not knowing the reason.

“I just remember being very tired. Everything has become a little inaccurate, ”she told Bridge.

One day in May, Mike Talsma, the agency’s delivery driver, came to her door ─ but Howdward could not open it, as she had always done before. He heard a groan inside.

When she finally walked to the door, Talsma recalled, “She didn’t know who I was. She was out of her mind. “

Talsma called the agency’s headquarters, and an ambulance was called to her address. She was later diagnosed with COVID-19 at a local hospital, where Howdward said she spent more than a week.

“He saved my life. I have no doubt about that, ”Goodward said of Talsma, recalling the episode a few minutes before Talsma sent his usual food delivery to Howsward on Monday.

More than food

There are other cases in western Michigan among individual seniors, such as Howdward, as concerns overseen by drivers of agency providers or social workers during initial home assessments led to 14 emergency calls for customers in fiscal 2021.

These links have also led to a dozen referrals of potential abuse, disregard and exploitation to the State Adult Protection Agency and nearly 1,500 referrals for services such as counseling, housing, legal aid and transportation.

“We deliver much more than food. These human connections are so important, ”said Melissa Saberanez of Meals on Wheels of Western Michigan.

Returning to Ann Arbor, UM 2020 graduate Emily Lerner told Bridge that she came up with the idea of ​​combining students with senior residents through years of volunteer work at a care home.

“Although I found that caring for the elderly is a lot of hassle, the problem № 1 I saw is the lack of communication for residents. I thought there must be a better way. ”

Result: The perfect couple, a nonprofit organization that brings together student volunteers with seniors in homes that are in homes that want to build relationships with another generation. They are combined on the basis of mutual hobbies and special interests.

“We have one match where both speak Spanish as a second language, both love theater and both read avidly. This is just one example, ”Lerner said.

UM student Ruppel, 22, said she and resident Gil, who helps live, soon discovered they had a lot in common when they met, first at Zoom sessions because of the pandemic and then at weekly personal meetings where Gil lives about two miles west of the university. .

“We both come from large families,” Rupel said as the couple sat at a conference room table in Gil’s living room. “We are both extroverts. We both like works of art. ”

In addition to meetings, the couple keeps in touch through phone calls and text messages, as Gil often asks to monitor Ruppel’s student life or to let her know what’s new in her.

“I keep sending her texts, asking her how she did with the test, things like that,” Gil explained. “I know she’s busy, but she immediately calls me or text me.”

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