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Time Together Is Well Spent

Good friendships are essential to our health, happiness and longevity. As we get older, it becomes especially important, but also especially challenging, to maintain close relationships and continue doing activities that bring us joy.

That’s why LSS Better Together matches older adults — those 55 and older in rural areas or 60 and older in Sioux Falls — called “Neighbors” with volunteers to provide socialization and friendship, share resources and build a lasting relationship.

“I like to tell people that while they may be doing fine and have all the support they need, life could be better with a companion or someone to get out and do things with,” said LSS Better Together coordinator Amy Feterl.

When an older adult signs up to become a Neighbor, LSS matches them with a volunteer based on their interests, preferences and location.

“LSS first connects with volunteers and older adults to learn about their background, family, why they’d like to be in this program, those types of things,” Feterl said. “From there, we do an initial meeting with the volunteer, older adult and LSS to ensure it will be a good match. Many matches stay together for years.”

Matches spend four hours a month doing anything from running errands together to seeing a movie or grabbing lunch.

“It’s very flexible; matches choose what they want to do when they get together,” Feterl said. “Some matches like to go to the park when it’s nice out. … Others do a Bible study together. So it’s really open; we even had one match that challenged themselves to try a cup of coffee at every cafe in the area.”

Compared to family, volunteers fill a unique role in their Neighbors’ lives by setting aside time specifically for fun.

“Family helps with things like groceries or rides to doctor’s appointments, but they may not have time for a movie or going window-shopping,” Feterl said. ” A lot of family members have their own families they’re busy with too.”

Volunteers say it’s fulfilling to spend time with someone older and wiser, and Neighbors appreciate having someone to try new things. Beyond having fun, the experience promotes a connection that can be immensely healing.

“There was a study done a few years ago by AARP, which found that prolonged loneliness was as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” Feterl said.

Over time, isolation is one of the biggest detriments to mental and physical health. Being around others and having plenty of new experiences are both key to staying cognitively sharp. Getting out also can boost mood and help maintain strength and stamina.

“Get connected, and stay connected,” said Rachel Shepherd, director of LSS Behavioral Health Services. “In person is always the best option. Better Together is a perfect example of a program that is incredibly impactful on both mental and physical health. In addition, if there’s any kind of community center or club, something that you can do once a week or more, that is a huge, huge benefit to mental health.”

Volunteers and Neighbors often will use their time to engage with the community. Craft shows and book clubs are popular, as are events like concerts or farmers markets. Each opportunity is aimed at strengthening our sense of belonging and improving our experience of aging.

“Better Together is really about adding something to bring joy and fun into everyday life,” Feterl said.

To become a Neighbor or a Better Together volunteer, call 605-444-7803, or visit

Since 2015, LSS of South Dakota has brought older adults — those 55 and older in rural areas or 60 and older in Sioux Falls — together with trained volunteers. This program is part of our independent adult services and helps to establish trusting relationships and regular social opportunities between older adults who live on their own and LSS volunteers.