"Flowers before bread": a commitment to easing isolation and loneliness among the elderly
Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly is a national, non-sectarian, volunteer-based organization that opened its first chapter in the U.S. in 1959. Originally founded in 1946, Little Brothers founder Armand Marquiset said “The greatest poverty is the poverty of love,” which is reflected in the motto, “Flowers before Bread.”
The mission of Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly is to advocate for older people who are isolated and at-risk by developing long-term companionships to provide greater well-being, promote independent living and instill a sense of belonging. Volunteers are matched up with an "older friend" to help and connect in a variety of ways.
Services that Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly provide include:
- Assessment, referrals, and advocacy. When a new older friend is found, Little Brothers makes a visit to assess the degree of isolation and matches them to a volunteer.
- Visits. The personal support program is key to providing social and emotional support. Volunteer visitors offer help in different ways, such as sharing meals, spending time with an elder during birthdays or grocery shopping.
- Telephone visits. Sometimes just a simple phone call from a volunteer helps with easing loneliness for an elder.
- Holiday visits and activities. The holiday season can be the loneliest time for older people, and Little Brothers provides gift baskets and gifts to their "older friends."
- Weather emergencies. In cases of severe weather events, Little Brothers volunteers contact their friends to make sure they are safe and comfortable.
- Mental health outreach. Because isolated older people are at higher risk for depression, Little Brothers conducts a survey to identify those elderly at risk for mental health problems. Little Brothers then refers those identified at higher risk to mental health agencies for diagnosis and treatment.