People & Community

Cherished Friendship Lifts the Spirit of FiFi, a 92-Year-Young Member in New Orleans

92 year old woman smile into camera

Friendship is a force that binds many of us which can reach beyond time and space. The ability to pick up the phone or hop on a video call is good. But there’s nothing quite so special as sitting with a friend face-to-face to share a smile and great conversation. Roots of friendship can run deep.

Friends help to reduce social isolation and feelings of loneliness, which in older adults can be serious health issues. Social isolation can worsen depression and anxiety, increase risk of developing dementia, and negatively impact physical and mental quality of life among older adults.1

At the Humana Neighborhood Center in New Orleans, members become more than acquaintances or classmates, they become friends. The social connections made at the Center help to reduce social isolation and encourage people to thrive. Over the years, Mrs. Patty Berthlaut has nurtured and bloomed long-lasting friendships with people she’s met at the Center.

For years, Mrs. Ophelia “FiFi” Risley, a young 92-year-old and spunky Humana member, visited the New Orleans Center three days each week, every week. She loved to attend Chef Nino’s cooking demonstrations every Tuesday and enjoyed an occasional Health & Wellness class led by Heather Diaz, Manager and Health Educator at the Center.

A function of our Humana Neighborhood Centers is to offer a place that people can participate in educational events, programs and activities designed to help with physical and mental health. Our mission is to support our members in the pursuit of better health and wellness. Sometimes this is accomplished just by offering a welcoming space to gather.

One of FiFi’s favorite activities was sitting in the café area to drink coffee and socialize. Prior to Covid, she would invite members from the Center to share lunch or dinner at her home, particularly people who she knew did not have family nearby and might feel lonely.

Close friends for the past five years, Patty recalls a day that FiFi invited her to come help weed her garden and plant some new flowers. They planted more than just flowers that day; they planted roots as kindred spirits.

“We spent a few hours talking, laughing, pulling weeds and replanting her flower bed. We met at 7 a.m. to beat the heat, and we both sat on the ground to pull and dig,” Patty said. “Afterward she insisted on making me homemade waffles with butter and syrup. We visited and looked at old family albums.”

When FiFi became unable to live alone, she moved into an assisted living facility but kept in touch with Patty. FiFi recently told Patty that she was feeling sad and lonely. She was becoming socially isolated living at the assisted living facility and missed seeing everyone at the Center.

Bringing flowers and a friend, Patty visited FiFi in her new home. Beautiful smiles, hugs and wonderful conversation brightened everyone’s day. The social re-connection helped cherished friends feel less alone. The human touch and kindness were just what FiFi needed to fill her heart and soul with joy.

“We are blessed to have one another in our lives,” said Patty. “Because of the Humana Neighborhood Center, we met and became great friends.”

Social isolation is all too common when people become unable to engage with their friends or family. This can be exacerbated when people make life-changing moves. Normal routines may be disrupted, and people can feel isolated and alone.

“I think Ms. Patty and Mrs. FiFi are kindred spirits. Neither of them has met a stranger, and they both have fostered relationships that started in the Center and continued beyond the walls,” said Brook Blanchard, former coordinator at the New Orleans HNC. “Both women bring such joy to the world. They have made an impact on so many people, especially those at the Humana Neighborhood Center.”

We encourage everybody, at any age or stage of life, to nurture existing friendships and to be open to developing new ones. Celebrate the people in your life that bring a smile to your face just by sharing a moment, talking over a cup of coffee, discussing your favorite book, breathing in a bouquet of flowers, or enjoying a morning laughing and digging in the dirt.


Humana is committed to supporting its members and work to meet their physical, mental and social needs. Learn more about loneliness and ways to become more socially engaged in our Overcoming Loneliness Together toolkit.

Humana Neighborhood Centers, both in-person and online, offer educational events, programs and activities designed to help with physical and mental health. Each location offers a unique calendar of in-person or virtual events, programs and activities.

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