Befrienders is an organization that matches Bozeman seniors with volunteers from the area, helping the Gallatin Valley’s older population combat loneliness since 1993. It has created dozens of friendships between generations that last for years.
Anne Kenney, 82, has been with Befrienders for the last two years and says that she loves what the program has done for her and other seniors in the community. “There’s a big need for it. I live alone, and half of the time, I would like to have someone to do an errand with or talk to, you know some human connection. There are a lot of women like me who live alone and it’s lonely sometimes, just having another lady to be around you is really comforting” Kenney said.
Anne’s Befriender, Tilly Tan, 30, says she decided to join Befrienders because she wanted to volunteer in her community. After being matched with Kenney, Tan says it was an instant friendship. The two of them make weekly grocery runs, go on lunch dates, take trips to the dog park, and even go thrift shopping at the senior center. Tan says that she too can get lonely sometimes living alone, which is another reason she joined Befrienders. “If you are just sitting at home by yourself, you might as well go help somebody else and sit with them, and then you can be lonely together,” Tan said.
Another Befriender match is Brad Jesness, 69, and Mila Azcona, 33. The pair has been a part of the program for only a few months and has already been on countless adventures together. Azcona says that they love shooting airsoft guns, hiking, going on rides in Jesness’s new sports car and drinking beer at their favorite brewery. Azcona says that she joined Befrienders after learning about the loneliness that some seniors face and wanted to help. Azcona was matched with Jesness just a couple of months after his wife passed and has been keeping him company ever since. “Spending time with a senior has shifted my perspective of life. It’s taught me to not take things for granted, to enjoy the present moment, and to just have fun,” Azcona said.
Befrienders is currently looking for matches for 34 seniors and is taking volunteers age 18 and up as well as any seniors over the age of 65. Visit befriendersbozeman.org for more information on how to get involved.
Ava Rosvold – Chronicle Photographer