The holiday season is a time to give and receive. Two local women, who brought Seniors Helping Seniors to the area earlier this year, live and breathe this sentiment every day. Romy Crawford owns the business that provides in-home service to senior citizens from senior citizens; her cousin Robin McCrimmon is director of operations. “I never thought I’d be running a business,” Crawford said. But earlier this year, she found herself doing just that. Fresh from completing her master’s degree in family life studies, she was on an airplane and noticed a magazine ad for Seniors Helping Seniors. The phrase that caught her eye was “a way to give and to receive.” At the same time that Crawford had received her degree, McCrimmon had just completed her master’s in business management. She also had experience working with seniors in nursing homes and assisted living residences. They ran into each other at a family gathering and decided that Seniors Helping Seniors was a service they both believed in. Soon after they joined the 200 other Seniors Helping Seniors nationwide — 15 of which are in Michigan. In March, Crawford went to training sponsored by corporate headquarters, and by June she had established the first Seniors Helping Seniors program — serving Ingham, Clinton and parts of Shiawassee counties. Crawford provides in-home, non-medical services for those who want to stay in their homes but need a little extra help performing their daily tasks. Seniors volunteer — and get a stipend — to help other seniors with services like meal preparation, personal grooming, shopping and more. In other cases, Seniors Helping Seniors can give caregivers, who care for seniors full-time, a much needed break. And they go one step further. They provide companionship, and in McCrimmon’s own words, “loving compassionate care and good listening skills — simple acts that make a big difference.” Crawford visits the home of each applicant, and assesses their needs. Then, she matches them with one of 30 providers that she’s trained. Most of the volunteers are in their 60s, but some are in their 90s. “About one third of my clients are from out of state,” Crawford said. “Many of them don’t have a support system, and need someone to check in on them and make sure they’re OK,” she explained. Although the volunteers receive training, “caring is something you can’t train for,” Crawford said. “I look for helpers who demonstrate compassion.” “And good listening skills,” McCrimmon added. “We’re really building friendships as much as anything else,” Crawford said. Her goal is to pair givers who have similar interests and backgrounds as the receivers. In the end, it’s hard for Crawford or McCrimmon to say whether the giver or receiver — or the two women themselves — gain the most. “Everyone is enriched,” Crawford observed. The experience can’t help but impact their personal lives, too, especially during the holiday season. Because Crawford doesn’t have close relatives joining her and her husband this year, on Christmas Day, she plans to rent a space and invite those who don’t have a place to go. Having recently lost some close family members, McCrimmon knows that it’s the little things that count. “Moments matter,” she said. Instead of focusing on one holiday event, McCrimmon looks forward to exchanging special moments throughout the season. Both are looking forward to the growth of their business in the new year.
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.