Mom, baby forge special friendship with 89-year-old

Every Tuesday, Joanna Warrens and 7-month-old son Victor travel to San Francisco's Outer Mission District to visit Anne Koffman.

Warrens, 31, is a volunteer in the Senior Companion Program of the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children's Services

"We hit it off as if we had known each other forever," said Koffman, who turns 90 in November. "It's nice when you're old anyway to have someone volunteer and come talk to you for a couple of hours, but this is special."

It is indeed a multigenerational connection that Koffman, Warrens and Victor have accomplished, one of many being made through the Senior Companion Program, which has been matching volunteers of all ages with seniors for more than 20 years.

Warrens and Victor, who also live in San Francisco, spend about an hour and a half with Koffman during their weekly visits. It is an arrangement that has not only touched Koffman, but Warrens and Victor as well.

"I personally love the intergenerational aspect of it," said Warrens, who is a stay-at-home mom. "Taking time to spend with young people and old people is really important."

Koffman, who spent most of her working life as a legal secretary, moved to San Francisco from New York in 1946 and shortly thereafter married Oscar Koffman, a chiropractor. They never had children. Twenty years ago, he died.

Koffman said she is close with her nieces and nephews, but they are on the East Coast.

She does have a group of friends in San Francisco and met many of them through JFCS' Widows and Widowers Program, which she joined shortly after Oscar died.

"I have some younger friends, too, you know; I'm pretty lucky in that," she said.

Koffman said spending time with Victor is one of her favorite parts of the week.

"He's just a doll," she said. "He's not only beautiful, but he seems to be exceptionally intelligent."

Warrens said Koffman's face "lights up" when she sees Victor.

"It's really cute," she said. "Anne calls Victor her boyfriend."

And when the three of them sometimes go out to a mall, Warrens said, people stare because they are surprised to see an elderly woman, a young woman and an infant having such a good time together.

"People find us kind of striking," Warrens said.

Before volunteering for the Senior Companion Program, Warrens, who has a family counseling license, worked in the YWCA girls mentorship program and as a public school counselor.

She said her inspiration to share Victor with an elderly stranger came from his first meeting with his great-grandmother, who was 102 at the time.

"She just completely lit up and she died three weeks later and I thought, 'Maybe someone would enjoy a visit from a baby the way she enjoyed a visit from a great-grandchild.'"

Warrens is one of nearly four dozen volunteers in the Senior Companion Program. In fact, the program is flush with volunteers and in need of seniors of any religious faith to sign up for some companionship, said volunteer coordinator Debbi Goodman.

"Right now, because we have done some good PR, we're getting volunteers coming in rather quickly and we don't have as many seniors who would like to have a volunteer," Goodman said. "That's kind of new for us."

Volunteers range in age from mid-20s to the 70s. Some of the intergenerational connections made in the program have lasted more than 10 years, according to Goodman.

"They're tremendously successful," she said. "I think many times the age difference is forgotten and the two people become very good friends."