It is no secret that Bozeman and its surrounding communities are experiencing population growth at an incredible rate. The over four percent growth rate puts Bozeman just behind the top fifteen fastest growing cities in the country, whose population growth rates range from 4.5 to 7.8 percent. This growth combined with the Baby Boomer Generation continuing to reach retirement age puts Bozeman’s senior population (ages 65 and over) at 11.9 percent of the area’s population, totaling over 12,400 individuals.
Studies have shown that loneliness leads to functional decline and earlier death in the aging population. Research also suggests that elderly people who spend regular social time with companions are at a decreased chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, while those that live alone or with little social interaction have poorer physical and mental health. Elderly individuals that live with perceived isolation and social disconnectedness also suffer from higher stress levels, lower coping capabilities and an increased risk of mental diseases, like depression.
This is where the true value of Befrienders lies, as they are the only organization in the Gallatin Valley that is currently offering these companionship services free of charge. The “matches” facilitated by our program pairs elderly citizens in need of companionship with community members that have volunteered their time and have been trained to work with the aging community. By utilizing volunteers for these matches, Befrienders takes an extra step in creating quality relationships as the participants want to be there for their match and see the relationship as something more than just their job or source of income.
Three thousand dollars (per year is the cost one would be facing to provide an elderly relation with similar companionship through a for-profit organization in the Gallatin Valley. Befrienders takes pride in being incredibly efficient as our annual cost per match is a mere $500 dollars.
The growth that our valley is experiencing, however has made it difficult for our organization to keep up with demand and we have reached our current maximum capacity. We need help from devoted community members such as yourself to continue providing these much needed services to Bozeman and the surrounding communities.