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'It's like having a friend' | Local group travels to nursing homes to cure loneliness

Now, they're looking for more helpers

Laughter and casual conversations with food at the center. This might sound like a normal family dinner - but the people sitting around the table, in this case, are almost strangers.

Such is the scene at Morningside of Alpharetta - an assisted living facility where Ulmaria Williams volunteers.

"Lack of activity leads to mental decline," she said. "It's unfortunate that many residents at multiple facilities are lonely and some of them won't come out."

Williams' father died from dementia and she started the non-profit Adopt a Mom and Pop to be an advocate for the elderly.

"The elderly do get forgotten," she said.

She and her volunteers visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities to talk to residents and help them feel less lonely.

"Loneliness is very hard on the residents especially when you're getting older," Morningside executive director Sam Cone said. "Just to see some of the interaction they have with her - some of them, their faces light up and that makes it all worth it."

Sandra Patterson knows it's worth it.

"It's like having a friend," she said.

She's been at Morningside for 5 years and, now, she looks forward to Williams' visits.

"It's always good to have somebody to talk to," she said. "Some of the people who don't come out of their rooms much would really like someone to talk to and it's a good way of meeting people."

Research proves that social interaction with the elderly decreases mortality their rate, complications from dementia and risk of abuse. It also gives volunteers a chance to hear their stories - and bring happiness to a community that is sometimes overlooked.

And it works with some residents saying that a few hours spent praying, talking and singing has really made life worth living again.

"Some might see their children once or twice a year, so having that friendship that's lasting just makes a difference," Williams said. "It just helps them overall."

Now, she's looking for more volunteers who can go to the seven different facilities they regularly visit. But, they're also looking for people who can make phone calls, give birthday gifts and help with group activities like cooking classes.

Potential helpers can learn more at the Adopt a Mom and Pop website. Williams says they are also looking for sponsors for different events with Adopt a Mom and Pop.