Recruiting seniors to help seniorsWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of times per week, retiree Bill Hamilton travels to the homes of area seniors, delivering companionship and checking on their welfare as they deal with the day-to-day management of life after youth.
At 57, he said believes himself to be the youngest person in the Retired Seniors Volunteer Patrol through the Toledo Police Department. But he knows for a fact that some of his associates are 80-year-olds helping 80-year-olds. It all depends on the individual senior’s needs, family whereabouts, income level and health.
“For a lot of people, this is the only contact they have,” Hamilton said. “They don’t have relatives in town or someone to check up on them.”
He also donates his time to the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, a service of the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio. AOoA recruits about 1,800 area seniors willing to give a much-needed hand at local hospitals, nursing homes, libraries and other locations that care and nurture the public.
Every volunteer undergoes training, a background check and several pats on the back.
After 32 years at GM Powertrain Division, Hamilton is determined to keep active. Since last year, he has volunteered for assignments patrolling at Mud Hens games, working the Dragon Races Downtown, as well as more mundane tasks such as mailings.
He’s willing to try something new, he said, but advises would-be volunteers to choose positions that interest them while offering the chance to assist others.
“You’ve got to select what you want to do and dedicate your time to that instead of spreading yourself too thin,” Hamilton continued. “It is really easy to get into to many programs and not have the time.”
Sally Davies, director of RSVP, described the turnout by senior volunteer as fascinating, citing the hours involved at more than 200 local nonprofit organizations.
Volunteers choose from about 500 job descriptions and come from all walks of life.
“We recruit anywhere and everywhere, any place that we can talk to seniors, we do,” Davies said. “Some are much more involved than others, but whatever they decide they want to do, we encourage.”
After three years, Davies said she considers RSVP a success, in part because of the close affiliation AOoA has with its volunteers. The program tracks hours, reimburses for travel and provides supplemental accident insurance for volunteers on assignment at no charge.
Most of all, she added, they receive well-earned recognition, “lots and lots of recognition.”
“Their calendars are full; they’re busy active people, and of course that’s what this is all about,” continued Davies. “It keeps seniors healthy and living independent lifestyles for many more years than just sitting home doing nothing.”
For 81-year-old Julia R. Henry, RSVP enables her to donate even more time and effort than she has since retirement 25 years ago. Henry has served as a receptionist for a quarter century at the Sylvania Senior Center and recently began a similar position at AOoA. She also makes friendly visits at elderly care and medical care facilities. The opportunities to help others spurred her to volunteer originally, however, she said she expanded her social contacts as well. A member of the Red Hat Society, Henry and 44 other ladies dress in bright purple topped with red caps as a monthly diversion. The custom livens up the day much like other duties, such as preparing Teddy bears for charitable giveaways.
“I dressed 45 bears for our senior center this year. I do that every year,” Henry related. “The Salvation Army furnishes the bears, and we dress them and give them to needy children at Christmas.”
RSVP is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal domestic volunteer agency. The program operates from a main office at AOoA in Toledo and a branch office in Napoleon. Volunteers must be 55 years of age.