Phone buddies Celine Hale, left, and Jean Burbine meet in person for the first time. Hale and Burbine became friends through Harpswell Aging at Home’s Neighbors Connecting program. (Kathy Hickey photo)

As an early member of Harpswell Aging at Home, Beverly Prosser Gelwick helped bring the Neighbors Connecting program to life. She became a caller for the program, which seeks to keep Harpswell’s older residents socially connected.

“As I got older, I became a recipient of some of HAH’s services,” said Prosser Gelwick. This included being the recipient of a friendly phone call. “I’ve made such wonderful friends,” she said.

Prosser Gelwick was paired with Les Klein, who enjoys their friendship. “Talking and spending time with Beverly is beyond delightful,” said Klein. “She’s got volumes of stories to tell about her family and its roots that reach back to the 1800s in Cundy’s Harbor. If I can be half as articulate and worldly as she is when I reach her age, it will be an accomplishment.”

Prosser Gelwick has also continued a year-and-a-half-long friendship with Alvin Stearns, which began when she participated in a HAH project that aims to capture and preserve participants’ memories and reflections. “We talk about anything, including law, history — everything,” she said about Stearns.

“Beverly has a rich and varied history,” said Stearns. “She also brings a perspective of history which provides a valuable contribution to what’s happening in the world today.”

The program, which grew exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic, hopes to stem the tide of loneliness.

“Studies have shown that the effects of loneliness can cause more disease, more severe disease and early death,” said Gayle Hays, chair of HAH’s Health and Wellness Committee. “Our hope is that this program will help our neighbors stay connected with their community.”

Celine Hale moved to Harpswell several years ago to help care for her aging parents. The pandemic shut down the respite center her parents visited, causing more isolation. Hale connected with HAH and learned about its services, including the Neighbors Connecting program.

“It gave me a feeling of connection,” said Hale. “I’ve gotten to know many of my neighbors, who are such nice people.”

Jean Burbine became a volunteer caller for HAH when she and her husband retired to Harpswell. A retired nurse, Burbine enjoyed working with older adults and getting to know Hale through their phone calls.

“It’s such a great program,” said Burbine. “We started out talking about Harpswell and things we have in common. She’s become a good friend. It’s been good for me too.”

Marlene Ward has been receiving calls from Barb Osen. “It’s nice to have someone checking on you,” said Ward.

Osen volunteered after her own health challenges prevented her from continuing other volunteer activities. “HAH brought meals to me after I got out of the hospital, which was so helpful,” said Osen. “I wanted to be able to continue to give back in a way I could. We’re both retired teachers, love our dogs and have the same birthday. This has been good for both of us.”

Betty Rood was a little skeptical about participating in the program. With her husband facing health challenges, she decided to give it a try. Kelly Johnson started calling Rood for a weekly chat.

“I was looking to do a little volunteering and found a friend,” said Johnson. “It’s such a lovely program which has a lot of benefits for everyone.”

For more information about Neighbors Connecting, call Gayle Hays at 207-833-2850 or Gina Caldwell, Harpswell recreation director and community services coordinator, at 207-833-5771 ext. 108.