Love is the Answer (LITA) is a grassroots, volunteer organization that has been serving the frail elderly of Marin County for more than two decades. This organization was founded in 1975 and grew out of a need to bring happiness, friendship, and purpose into the lives of lonely seniors in long-term care facilities. LITA matches volunteers as one-to-one friends for residents of 25 facilities in the county. More than 300 volunteers carry out all but one percent of LITA’s work. The volunteers are of all ages and backgrounds. LITA has recently implemented a program that allows youth to participate.
The need for LITA’s services has become more urgent as the population of the county ages. The most rapidly growing population segment in Marin County is the group aged 75 or older. By 2010, Marin will have the highest median age of any county in the state. Young people find the homes in the area too costly and are forced to look elsewhere.
More disturbing is that 60% of the elderly people residing in long term care facilities have no family or their families live too far away to visit. The residents put into the nursing homes feel abandoned and unneeded. They are unable to function as in the past and their declining health is discouraging to them. After a full, rich, and productive life, older citizens are placed with others in their age bracket and there is no diversity. They get little or no stimulation and are isolated from the general population.
LITA is an example of inspired assistance. They are committed to improving the quality of life of elders. Their Intergenerational Learning Program combines young people with seniors to share experiences and understanding, which benefits both generations. The Life History Project trains volunteers to develop and write life histories of the seniors in the community, thereby instilling a sense of history that can be carried into the future. Pet Connection volunteers include their pets in their visits, creating a feeling of home that may not have been experienced by the residents since they were able to care for themselves.
LITA of Marin is meeting critical emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of the elderly. The values gained through LITA youth programs are carried into the future by the next generation. LITA brings hope and a reason for living to this often forgotten part of our population. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of our active lives takes us away from our community, and we could not imagine what it is like to be isolated. Every day, LITA volunteers bring happiness and friendship into the lives of seniors. They are a critical part of the human needs outreach in Marin, and they remind the elderly that their lives do matter to someone.