Sandy Pruitt describes herself as a loner, but if someone were to see her laughing and joking with her senior companion, Dorothy Malsom, they would never know it.
Pruitt and Malsom talk about football, baseball, small town life and crocheting - an activity they both enjoy doing together.
Malsom said she enjoys the camaraderie with Pruitt, whom she sees at Botkin Care and Rehab, 102 W. Botkin. “It’s just like we’re old relatives,” she said. “It’s just like we’re sisters.”
Pruitt said Malsom’s weekly visits “break up the monotony. It’s good for me to interact.”
Malsom visits Pruitt and two men who live at Botkin as part of the Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP) sponsored by the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas. The program finds volunteer activities for seniors 55 and over. Along with being a senior friend, volunteers can volunteer at the city’s museums, in schools, helping students in the classroom or just eating lunch with them, delivering friendship meals and picking up medications for seniors. Some even serve as foster parents for senior cats - that might get stressed in shelters - for the local humane society until the cats are adopted.
RSVP was started in Sumner County in February of 2018. There are 56 seniors volunteering for the program now, Debbie Lutz, RSVP director said. The goal is to have 100 volunteers by 2020. Lutz said she would like to see more men volunteering, adding that they could go with a spouse or another man if it would make them feel more comfortable.
Marla Nispel, director of Botkin, said there are several men at the facility who could use a partner to play checkers, chess, cards or dominoes with. She said the residents at Botkin greatly benefit from having visits.
“It makes their lives richer,” Nispel said. “They have someone to talk to, someone to share things with.” Malsom said she has a “good repertoire” with the people she visits. “I can’t describe how nice it is. It’s really wonderful.”
Malsom’s husband passed away two years ago from dementia, and after that Malsom, 83, got tired of watching TV and started volunteering with RSVP. She also joined the Lions’ Club and said she has a new sense of purpose.
“It gives you a whole new outlook,” she said. “Everyone needs somebody and I’m thankful I’m that somebody.”
Anyone 55 or over wishing to be a volunteer with RSVP can contact Lutz at (316) 554-6303 or simply visit the RSVP office at 107 S. Washington.