UMF graduating senior Abbie Hartford enjoys a visit with residents at The Pierce House in Farmington. (UMF image)

FARMINGTON — University of Maine at Farmington graduating senior Abbie Hartford, from Jay, has created a community-wide program to help stem the loneliness the elderly experience when living in a group home.

A psychology major and longtime advocate for community service, Hartford created the UMF Senior Buddy program in an effort to spark student interest in working with the aging population.

Hartford was amazed at how her fellow students responded to the volunteer opportunity. Within a short while, she had 50 students with majors across the curriculum volunteering an hour a week at four Farmington facilities.

“It’s such a simple thing, to spend an hour a week with a senior living in a facility,” said Hartford.

“But it’s so fulfilling to see the positive difference it makes in both the residents’ and the students’ lives.”

She first became interested in creating the program while serving an internship in her junior year at The Pierce House, a home for the aging population in Farmington. She loved her time there, helping out and listening to seniors’ stories, but also became acutely aware of the greater need for caring volunteers to help promote social interaction and enhance the residents’ quality of life.


Early this year, she started the program and spread the word to UMF students through campus community service organizations and supportive faculty. The outreach program is now thriving in The Pierce House, Pinewood Terrace, Orchard Park Rehabilitation & Living Center, and Sandy River Center.

“I love that UMF is so interwoven with the community. Those collaborations work together to create a stronger, more vibrant community and promote the well-being and learning of everyone,” said Hartford.

Hartford finished her UMF classes in December and will graduate this spring, but continues to volunteer in the Senior Buddy program. She is currently working one-on-one with children ages 3 to 18 at the Children’s Center in Fairbanks and Woodfords Family Services in Wilton.

“Abbie is a real success story. She has the talent, compassion and professional integrity to make a real difference as a social worker in any aging-related field,” said Steven Quackenbush, UMF professor of psychology.

Hartford recently learned that she has been awarded the selective Lawrence E. Standish Graduate Scholarship that provides funding for full tuition, housing, and a meal plan for one year of graduate study in a master’s program at the University of Maine. She will work towards her masters in social work and looks forward to working with Maine’s aging population.

A nationally-recognized public liberal arts college, UMF enjoys a 150-year tradition of providing a quality academic experience combined with the personal attention and close student faculty collaboration that help prepare all students to be successful.

Rooted in a tradition of teacher preparation, UMF offers top quality programs in the arts and sciences, teacher preparation, and business and pre-professional studies. UMF, located in the heart of Maine’s four-season outdoor recreational region, is a welcoming, close-knit academic community that prepares students for engaged citizenship, enriching professional careers and an enduring love of learning.

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