Program Aims to Help Senior Citizens

“The golden years” are referred to by many people as the time when a senior citizen is supposed to bask in the glory of their accomplishments and spend time with family and close friends, but for many seniors in Queens these years have had a bit of blandness and sense of loneliness to them. Many have no friends or family to keep them company and simply sit idly by while the years pass them up.

In order to correct this great tragedy, an organization known as the Bayside Senior Friendly Visiting Program connects seniors with volunteers such as high school and college students in attempts to give them companionship. The Torch sat down with the head of the program and St. Johns alumnus, Chris Schneider, to discuss why students should get involved, what the program entails and just about anything else a potential volunteer might want to know.

The program is funded by city meals on wheels. Schneider was offered the job of program manager of the northeast Queens senior services about eight years ago and since then he has had to cope with the difficulties of recruiting high school and college students to help the homebound senior citizens of northeast Queens.

“I am a product of Catholic education and this fostered in me the belief that I should aid the less fortunate,” Schneider said, referring to what inspired him to get involved.

The program mainly consists of providing friendly visits, socialization and companionship.  Sometimes, it takes less effort than one might think.

“I have a gentlemen that is homebound we’re looking for someone who plays chess and I have been unable to find anyone,” he said. “If we could find someone to visit that gentleman and play chess with him for a couple of hours it would make his day, week and year. “

The picture Schneider paints for the lonely seniors without visitation is a bleak one, their only contact with the outside world possibly coming in the form of a Meals on Wheels driver. According to Schneider, this is far from a rarity.

”There are thousands and thousands of senior citizens in northeast Queens that have no one,” he said. “Their spouses have passed and their children do not live in the area, they are essentially alone and to me there is nothing more tragic than to be alone, but the service does not only benefit the seniors it helps students full fill any service requirements they might have for their schools and/or courses.”

Schneider also offered an alternative for those who did not feel comfortable going into the home of someone they are unfamiliar with.

“I also help at a day care center in Flushing on Kissena Blvd., where 10 senior citizens come in every three days a week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and many St. Johns students have gotten involved by helping run the bingo,” he said.  “We’re currently looking for someone who plays a musical instrument, if anyone is interested, please contact me.”

Schneider had one last request regarding the program.

“The program is in dire need of help and we desperately need volunteers,” he said. “So if you have an hour and a half every week of spare time, please give me a call.”

Chris Schneider can be reached for further information at call Chris Schneider at 516-641-7541.