Socializing with seniors: Students, Waco’s elderly form relationships through local organizations

Baylor Agape Connection has paired with Meals and Wheels Waco to create a program that provides college students with the opportunity to volunteer while building relationships with the elderly.

“The elderly are a generation that are often forgotten,” said Kaitlyn Gibbens, Agape Connection ambassador. “You can make someone’s day just by going and spending an hour with them.”

Although the program is called the Friendly Visitor Program, Gibbens said she and others involved with Agape Connecction like to call it “make a special gran-friend.”

“It’s just amazing the kind of need that you’re able to respond to,” said Avon, Ind., senior Sarah Byers, the group’s president.

Responding to that need and participating in this program requires a short interest form and a background check before students will be paired one another and then matched with a new friend. Byers said these elderly friends are usually home-bound and live alone.

Student pairs that have passed their background checks and have been given the address of their friend will go and visit once a week for about an hour, whenever it fits in their schedule. Byers said she tries to pair freshman volunteers with older students, in case they don’t have a car.

Both Byers and Gibbens said doing little things around the house for these elderly citizens, like changing light bulbs or lifting things they find too heavy, is beneficial, but not the only benefit to a visit.

“A lot of the times, you make very special connections,” Gibbens said. “It’s definitely more of a friendship than a volunteer opportunity.”

She said she enjoys spending time with her elderly friends because she gets to hear stories about their lives and experiences.

“I think it is a really good opportunity for me because of their wisdom,” Gibbens said.

Both she and Byers said serving the elderly is what Agape Connection is all about.

“I see a lot of potential to connect Baylor students to the Waco community,” Byers said.

In addition to this Friendly Visitor Program, Agape Connection also helps with holiday parties at nursing homes and works with Waco’s Friends For Life.

“I like to volunteer because it makes me happy,” Byers said.

Byers said Agape Connection has been growing and she hopes it will continue to expand, especially now that Meals and Wheels is hosting the Friendly Visitor program.

Questions about Agape Connection can be directed to Byers at or The organization also posts updates on its Facebook page, Baylor Agape Connection.

Completed Friendly Visitor Program forms can be emailed to