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Connecting, Engaging, Thriving during a Pandemic

Kristin Davidson  | Published on 10/12/2020
Chamber Article Photo
Penn’s Village continues to provide companion services “at a distance.”
Pictured are a volunteer companion and her Villager.

Our 100 volunteers are essential to all that Penn’s Village does to help its members connect, engage, and, yes, thrive even during Covid-19.

Penn’s Village has always believed and practiced that we are all in this together. We are an organization that supports older adults with social and educational programs and volunteer services so they can remain in their own homes in central Philadelphia. 

Long before we had heard of Covid-19, there were concerns about the mental and physical health of older adults because of the loneliness and social isolation caused by living alone. 18% of the adult residents of Philadelphia are over 65 and, while most of them cherish living in their own homes as they age, they face health issues, some of which are exacerbated by social isolation.

Along came Covid-19 and the effects of sheltering-in-place and quarantine appeared likely to amplify the negative effects on mental and physical health of this population.

Penn’s Village has worked hard to adapt our support to members to the current situation.  Here are some of the ways we have pivoted our programs and services:
  • Switched our regular programming to Zoom teleconferences rather than our regular in-person gatherings and added additional programs each week
  • Adapted our in-person volunteer support to frequent telephone check-ins with our members
  • Arranged socially distanced conversations in parks between a member and a volunteer.

Members and volunteer companions have not only stayed connected by phone during the pandemic.  In one case, they found that their phone conversations missed the nuances, so they switched to weekly chats over Zoom where they could also share photos or images of crafts they were creating. Another pair meets on a bench in Washington Square wearing masks and when the weather doesn’t cooperate, they switch to FaceTime. 

Another volunteer has always gone out of her way for her members.  She keeps in remarkably close touch with those members with whom she is connected, driving one over to New Jersey to shop at a favorite store or bringing her dog on visits to an animal-loving member.  She continues to connect regularly by phone in these times of social distancing.  She is always willing to respond to other requests and is a member of our Service Committee.

Other volunteers serve on committees meeting over Zoom, write for our blog or offer readings over Zoom for the Penn’s Village Reads program and much more. Administrative volunteers cover phones and email.

Tech support by a volunteer continues but is now handled remotely. The Penn’s Village Book Group, History Group and Men’s Group continue but over Zoom rather than in person.  A Writing Group that had just started before Covid, took a break but is now meeting over Zoom.  The French Group keeps connected via a newsletter produced by the volunteer leading the group. Our team of volunteer newsletter writers has been completely unphased and continues its interviews but by phone or Zoom rather than in person. 


We believe we are providing much-need support to a vulnerable population and have received excellent feedback from our members. Across the country, sister villages in the Village to Village Network are also providing important services to older adults to mitigate the health risks of social isolation. As coronavirus restrictions are easing in Philadelphia, Penn’s Village is planning to cautiously reintroduce some in-person services under careful guidelines. We hope to be able to provide more in-person services such as rides to health care appointments or shopping in the next few weeks as circumstances allow.

For more information, visit our website www.pennsvillage.org, contact us by email at info@pennsvillage.org or phone us at 215-925-7333.