Easing the sting of loneliness
As Archie Trousil of Lowry struggled to will himself out of bed, a harsh reality struck him - he was alone.
After his mother passed away, depression and loneliness suffocated and exhausted him. He spent the majority of time lying in bed staring blankly at the ceiling.
"The depression hit me so bad. It wasn't over bills or money, it was just over everything," Trousil recalled, his eyes instantly filling with a sad hollowness.
But while looking over the paper one day, he came across an ad publicizing the Elder Network peer advising program that provides company to lonely people to help them get through a tough time in their life (see related story in Life section).
And for Trousil, this was the toughest of times.
"Family members aren't living very close nowadays, so the peer advisors are there to be like a family member, even closer," said Jill Jacobson, Elder Network peer support coordinator.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 29 percent people 65 and older live alone. This is the isolation that the program is working to prevent.
"The program really works to prevent isolation and depression by giving people someone to listen to them and work with them through things," Jacobson said.
Though Trousil was apprehensive at first about meeting his company, after talking to Don Kruger of Alexandria for only a few minutes it was obvious that they had an instant connection.
"I could sense right away from the way he talked that it was going to be perfect," Trousil said.
And it is.
The two understand each other's humor and can communicate through a glance. They encourage each other to pursue their goals and play devil's advocate when they want to get to the bare bones of an issue. "Finding the right match is such an important thing and when it happens it is beautiful," Jacobson said.
Though the pair is only supposed to visit for an hour per week, they have so much to talk they sometimes spend the whole afternoon together.
"It doesn't even feel like more than an hour...I think we both have verbal diarrhea because we never run out of things to talk about," Kruger said.
The two talk about everything from religion to helping to detangle the tanglements of life. And as they've talked over the years, Trousil has begun to feel better about life.
"The thing about the Elder Network is that it is a lot like being a psychologist...You have six or seven appointments and by the time the seventh appointment comes around you all of a sudden feel better and the psychologist hasn't actually done much. You've sat there and talked it out," Kruger said.
He goes on to explain that this is the whole concept of the Elder Network, to let people talk it out and then they solve their own problems.
"He actually cured himself, I was just there to listen," he said.
For Kruger, listening and helping are exactly what he loves to do.
"I joined the Elder Network because I just love to help and meet new people. My first match was really something and now they hooked me up with this guy," Kruger said, nudging Trousil.
Because of Kruger's patience and compassion, Trousil has a better outlook on life and a new understanding for the world around him.
"I don't know where I would be without Don," Trousil said. "He hasn't cured me, but he helped me so much."
Now Trousil walks with more of a spring to his step and is excited for the day. He has a job at Andes Tower Hills on the tubing hill and continues to take care of his many animals.
"Having Don with me the past two years gave me something to look forward to for at least that week," he said. "I never want to go back to the position I was in; it was really bad."
Thanks to the Elder Network, Trousil will never have to be alone because he will always have someone to talk with and find encouragement.
"We have had a wonderful time," Krueger said.
As the two men peered at one another a mischievous laughter escaped their lips in unison.
"A very good time," he added.
"Yup we do," Trousil added.
The Elder Network didn't give Trousil medication or send him to a psychologist to help him out of his depression; instead, they gave him a confidant and a talkative buddy. They gave him a friend that would listen to him, challenge him and simply help him when he needed help.
As the years have gone by, they have given Kruger all of these things as well.
"I told Don once, 'Where would you be today if we hadn't met?' and he said he didn't know. Well, he is much better off now I think," Trousil said with a proud smile.
ABOUT THE ELDER NETWORK
The Elder Network is a nonprofit established in 1994 as a way to connect volunteers with clients who needed a companion to help them through a tough time in life.
These life challenges ranged from the loss of a spouse to dealing with the effects of aging. Volunteers first go through a 21 hours training program to learn enhanced communication skills before being assigned a client. The program is available to clients and volunteers older than age 55 and the next training will be held in October. To volunteer or if you would like a companion, call (320) 763-9084 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be brought or sent to 420 12th Avenue East #32, P.O. Box 232 Alexandria.
TOUR A COTTAGE TO RAISE FUNDS
To raise funds, the Elder Network will host its annual Tour of Cottages next Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m. Details are in today's Life section in the Echo Press on Page A8.