Senior citizens bring viable skills and support to any community. According to seniorcorps.gov, “Americans over 55 have a lifetime of experience to share, and the desire to make a real difference in their world.” The question is how do we recruit these resourceful individuals to become senior volunteers?
Senior Volunteers Are Contributing Now
There are several organizations extant which already use the services of our senior population. One is the Foster Grandparent Program. The Foster Grandparent Program Directors, Inc. was established in 1971, serving as the main advocate for the FGP (NAFGPD, 2010). Part of its advocacy was for older Americans, “our nation’s only increasing natural resource,” according to the NAFGPD. Senior volunteers in this program serve as role models, mentors, and friends; they interact with other community groups, such as faith-based organizations, Head Start centers, and other facilities meeting the needs of youth (seniorcorps.gov).
Method Number 1
One way to help recruit senior volunteers for a program like this is through information available on websites related to older Americans. For example, seniorcorps.gov offers information about opportunities available with the FGP—that volunteers can serve up to 40 hours a week; the possibility of earning stipends; and reassuring them that they will have “pre-service orientations” to prepare them for their service.
Volunteers as Companions
Another program available for older citizens is Senior Companions, which gives extra help to the frail or disabled. Families needing time off or the freedom to de-stress from giving in-home care would appreciate the assistance of senior volunteers. Along with companionship, volunteers may also run errands, or provide any other needed help for the client and/ or the family (seniorcorps.gov).
What Do These Programs Offer Our Communities?
The benefits of programs like these are mutual. Those who are at-risk or on the margins of society find support and positive influence in interactions with senior volunteers; and the volunteer corps retains a sense of usefulness as still-contributing members of society. Indeed, the activity and focus required to be a senior volunteer helps one live a longer, more fulfilling life, with an increased sense of well-being.