Phone program connects seniors to social life

Beth Omrani has a busy social life.

The 75-year-old Austin woman regularly plays bingo, participates in brain aerobics games and chats with her friends over coffee. And she does it all without ever leaving her home.

Omrani is among the 110 seniors who participate in Lifetime Connections Without Walls, a telephone-based program that brings seniors together for group activities through regular conference calls. The 3-year-old effort is hosted by Family Eldercare, an Austin nonprofit organization that provides services for senior citizens.

“It’s a genius idea,” Omrani said. “I love it.”

Social isolation is a problem for older adults, said Angela Atwood, executive director for Family Eldercare. Illnesses and physical ailments can leave people homebound, cutting them off from the friends and hobbies they once enjoyed.

According to a 2009 report by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, 23 percent of 1,000 seniors surveyed by the agency reported having been told by a doctor that they had depression.

Lifetime Connections aims to stave off that problem by allowing seniors to socially network with their peers over the phone, Atwood said. Some people play bingo. Others enjoy writing workshops or guided phone tours ? complete with color slides that have been mailed to them ? of such places as the Capitol and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Participants can also join a pen pal program that connects them to friends in California, Connecticut, New York and Canada.

“They have this way of building friendships over the phone,” Atwood said. “It’s something they look forward to.”

Omrani said the phone calls are an important part of her day. Illnesses keep her in bed most of the time, she said, and going out is difficult.

Last year, her pastor recommended that she participate in the Lifetime Connections, and she’s been an avid fan ever since.

She and her friends end up chatting about everything from gardening and music to bird watching and the weather, Omrani said. The constant interaction keeps her spirits up, and the games work her memory.

“The simplest things simply do work,” she said. “The longer I do it, the more I like it.”

For more information, go to or call 220-7076.

Contact Andrea Ball at 912-2506 ?or

Martin Basore

Martin Basore plays bingo on the phone through Lifetime Connections Without Walls, a program run by the nonprofit Family Eldercare. There are 110 seniors who participate in the teleconference service.

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