Befrienders is a non-profit program whose mission is to enhance the quality of life by “befriending” our aging population. Due to life transition, physical limitations or other circumstances, seniors may have limited social interaction. Befrienders matches a volunteer and a senior together to spend at least an hour each week doing a variety of activities, such as going out to lunch, playing games or just talking.
Befrienders was established in 1993 and has brought many generations together in a mutually rewarding relationship by honoring the human spirit and provding life-enriching volunteer opportunities. The program is free and open to seniors age 65 and older and volunteers age 18 and older.
- Creates lifelong friendships
- Helps monitor elder abuse, neglect, depression, loneliness, and isolation
- Promotes increased social interaction among the elderly to ease the transition of aging
- Affects 160+ people annually in Gallatin County
- Fosters awareness of the elderly population’s needs
- Provides a unique opportunity to enrich another’s life
In February 1993 an elderly woman tapped on Pete Merrill’s car window in a grocery store parking lot. Sadie offered Pete 35₵ in return for a ride home. Pete not only drove her home, free of charge, of course, and cleared ice from her walkways, but was asked to come back and visit over cookies and ginger ale.
Pete recognized a need for older residents to maintain a social connection with the larger community. Starting with the 106 names on the Meals on Wheels recipient list, he learned that there is a population of senior citizens in Bozeman with few opportunities for social interaction. He also figured there were many students at Montana State University who would be happy to spend an hour a week visiting an older friend. Together with key individuals at MSU-Bozeman and other active community members, he founded Befrienders so that people of different generations could form a mutually beneficial relationship.
Today Befrienders matches community volunteers of all ages with people age 65 and over who want to increase their social interaction.