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Leelanau seniors band together to maintain independence

Nov 2, 2016

Neighbors helping neighbors. That’s the motto of ShareCare of Leelanau County.

Since 1994, ShareCare has been helping seniors stay in their homes. It’s truly a win-win proposition.

Seniors in Leelanau get the support and help they need to live independently, at home. And volunteers get the reward of knowing they’re helping their neighbors.

Morgan Springer of Interlochen Public Radio went along on one of those volunteer outings. Hear that feature above. Also above, hear Stateside's conversation with Barb Coye, one of ShareCare's founders, and Deb Wetherbee, ShareCare's office manager.

“The fact that so many people visit Leelanau County is exactly why many of us are here now as retirees,” Coye explained.

Although the beauty of the 40-mile-long peninsula is a big draw, the peninsula is quite secluded, which can make it difficult for seniors to access health care and other services.  

“As we aged, we began to think what services were available in this rural community, which is mostly orchards and vineyards. That was what got us to, well, think about our future,” Coye said. 

One of the main challenges facing seniors in Leelanau is transportation, said Wetherbee. “If somebody can no longer drive, they can’t make it to doctors appointments or even to get groceries.”

This is where the volunteers come in. “They can get people to appointments,” said Wetherbee. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hair appointment or an appointment with your oncologist. It’s all important for people’s health and well-being.” 

Linda Lichty puts the finishing touches on Margeret Skeba's wash and set at Murra's Hair Care in Traverse City.
Credit Morgan Springer / Interlochen Public Radio

In addition to providing rides, volunteers also do day-to-day things like seasonal yard pickup or running errands.

But most importantly, the program creates community.

“They don’t have a neighbor or family that are necessarily nearby,” Coye said of many Leelanau County seniors. “The fact that people get to know each other through an organization of this sort is one way to keep the isolation of seniors, which can be very dangerous, at its lowest level.”

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Support for State of Opportunity comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a partner with communities where children come first.