Someone Just for Me: Recognizing a Critical Role for Volunteers


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Speaker: Dr. Paul Falkowski, Ph.D., Gerontologist, Author, Speaker, Educator

Long before COVID-19, professionals working in long-term care knew about the devastating effects of social isolation. Now because of COVID-19, social isolation has become an all too familiar term to the general population.  We heard reports of people passing due to being disconnected from their families and friends during the past year. But what about the people who did not have family or friends?

Creating and sustaining intimate relationships takes time and commitment. In this session, you will learn the critical components for creating “authentic” relationships. You will learn how to recruit, screen for, and train a cadre of volunteers, who go on to become “companions” or, as one older woman observed, “…someone that is here just for me.” We’ll look at the transformational power volunteers like these can have on the people you serve, the people serving them, the volunteers themselves, and your surrounding community.


At the end of this webinar, you will be able to:

  1. Identify and discuss critical components required for creating meaningful “authentic” relationships.
  2. List and discuss the impact that “companion” volunteers have on the people living and working in long-term care communities and the community-at-large.
  3. Employ practical methods for recruiting, screening, training, and retaining “companion” volunteers.
  4. Discuss strategies and techniques for securing “buy-in” and support from management.

Dr. Paul Falkowski is dedicated to serving the people who live and work in long-term care communities. Paul has a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Music, a master’s degree in Gerontology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and earned a doctorate in Gerontology from the University of Nebraska.  He was first attracted to the field of aging through his volunteering in nursing homes providing musical entertainment. In 1993, he formed a nonprofit that went on to recruit and train some 700 volunteers for nursing homes over 26 years. In 2003, he contacted the Department of Gerontology at the UNO and was encouraged to pursue a Gerontology graduate certificate.  Eighteen years later, he teaches online courses in gerontology and volunteer management, conducts research and consults with nursing homes. He recently developed the course “Volunteer Management and Aging Services” and is working on research that connects volunteer activities and the nursing home’s quality of measures. Also, he authored “Creating the Volun-Cheer Force: Rethinking the way we use volunteers in nursing homes” and created VolunCheerLeader LLC to support nursing home managers of volunteers. His passion for volunteerism and improving the care of older adults is unwavering. Dr. Falkowski has won numerous awards. Most recently he was named “Distinquished Alumni – 2021” by the University of Nebraska at Omaha, College of Public Affairs and Community Service.

Paul is married to Mary Falkowski for 49 years now. Mary shares Paul’s passion for serving older adults. She is the service coordinator for an independent residence for older adults, and the people love her. She, truly, is their champion. Paul & Mary have two grown children, Steven, a successful architect, and Katherine, who teaches English to newly arrived older immigrant children in preparation for high school. In addition, he and Mary have two grandsons, Cecil, 10, and Kazimir (Kazzy), 7. Both boys are brilliant and a joy to be around. In addition to teaching and writing, Paul still plays his saxophone in nursing homes. Once the nursing homes open up again, he will resume his visits. His favorite saxophonist? Paul Desmond. His favorite song? “Take Five” by Paul Desmond.