Jun 13, 2019

Making a Difference… One Relationship at a Time

Seniors today are increasingly socially isolated, which can leave them at risk of loneliness and even health issues. Eye Centers of Tennessee is playing a small part in helping to change that.

It’s a sobering fact — senior isolation has actually become one of the biggest health threats facing older adults in the United States. Being lonely and isolated can increase a senior’s risk of developing conditions like high blood pressure, depression, and even dementia.

While you might think isolation is something only faced by older adults who are living on their own, it’s actually pretty common even among those who are living in assisted living centers or nursing homes. In many situations, those seniors may not have regular visits or interactions with non-staff.

That’s part of why ECOTN has made helping seniors in its communities a big part of its community outreach mission.

Making Outreach a Priority

Crystal Tompkins, community outreach coordinator at ECOTN, visits assisted living centers, nursing homes, and other events focused on seniors in 16 counties. During her visits, she spends time adjusting and cleaning eyewear for the seniors — but a good bit of her time is spent nurturing relationships with those she visits.

“I clean their glasses and adjust them,” Tompkins says. “But more than that, I simply spend some time with them. You want to put a smile on their face — they may not have had a visitor in days. When you can spend time with them, even for a few minutes, they get a little smile on their face and it makes them feel better.”

The “Bingo Queen”

While Tompkins’ primary goal in her outreach efforts is to build relationships with seniors in our community, she’s probably most recognized for playing a mean game of bingo — which has made her a hit at senior fairs around the area. It’s also left seniors who she visits regularly with a lasting impression.

“The nurses and LPNs at these assisted living centers and nursing homes will tell me that the residents are waiting on me,” Tompkins says. “They look forward to that little bit of entertainment in their days.”

For Tompkins, this work is her longtime passion. Before joining ECOTN in 1995, she worked at a senior center.

“When I go into an assisted living center, I try to make each person feel important and give him or her attention,” Tompkins says. “These seniors simply want attention — and they want to feel important. That’s what I’m there for. I want them to know that they have someone who is willing to come and spend time with them and show them that they’re loved.”

And it might be just as important for Tompkins and ECOTN as it is for the seniors whose lives they impact.

“You come out at the end of the day with a smile on your face,” Tompkins says. “It’s a blessing, really. You’ve accomplished making someone’s day a little happier. It’s the best job in the world to make that impact.”

Keep an eye on our blog or follow us on Facebook to find out more about what Eye Centers of Tennessee is doing to give back in our community.

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