April is National Volunteer Month, and if you’re 55 or older and want to give back to your community in a meaningful way, Lutheran Northwest Community Services has a place for you.
Volunteer with the LCSNW and Senior Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). Companion Program not only bringing joy and support to lonely and isolated seniors; the volunteers themselves receive something special as their lives are enriched by forming new friendships and friendships that may be missing from their own lives.
“It’s a win-win situation. We have people who have been friends for a long time, and they met while volunteering,” said RSVP Program Manager Nancy McFarland, noting that the average age of RSVP volunteers is 74. “Some people don’t make friends easily, or as they get older their friends pass away and by volunteering they can make lots of new friends that they will have for the rest of their lives.”
Seniors who volunteer with RSVP are offered a variety of ways they can use their special skills, knowledge, and experience for purposeful involvement in their community. The way this program works is volunteers are matched to RSVP non-profit partner sites according to what each volunteer wants to do. For example, oopportunities include helping out at food banks, food joints, schools, upscale thrift stores, museums, furniture banks, and various other nonprofits. Administration positions are also available. In the Pierce County, RSVP volunteer sites are located in greater Tacoma, Puyallup, Graham, Edgewood, and Gig Harbor. Within LCSNW, RSVP also supports the Santa for Seniors and Meals on Wheels programs.
“RSVP is really designed to get seniors out of their homes,” McFarland explains. “We found something volunteers were passionate about and those people strengthened our community.”
Helping out at a communal meal is very popular with RSVP volunteers. Through Catholic Community Services, hot, tasty and nutritious meals are served to older adults in group settings accessible at various locations. please answer volunteer to host, check on diners, set tables, wash dishes, prepare food if the cook needs help, and more.
“There are lots of good opportunities especially if you like that kind of work,” says McFarland. He loved seeing all the happy faces among the seniors sharing a meal together was the highlight of their week. friendship – they consider people as their family. Some places to eat five days a week, some two or three days a week, but every time I’m there I see the same people and they really look forward to it.”
Food banks are another popular volunteer opportunity. “When you’re at a food bank it’s instant gratification because you see people picking up food that you put on the shelf and we know now with the price of food there are lots of families using food banks,” said McFarland.
Glenn, Rose, and Marlene love to give back to their community through the Lutheran Community Services Northwest Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) Program.
Volunteering with RSVP is easy. Simply call (253) 722-5695 or email [email protected] and you will be on your way to finding places to give back according to the type of volunteering you want to do.
The LSCNW Senior Companion Program offers a different way to improve mental and physical health for seniors and people with disabilities who are lonely or isolated. This program is for volunteers aged 55 and over and on a low income. Small allowances and mileage reimbursement are provided so that older volunteers can visit their clients regularly to talk, play cards, work on shared hobbies, go for walks, run errands, shop for groceries, or make doctor appointments.
The Senior Companion Program is designed for clients to remain in their homes and maintain an independent life while also providing a voluntary avenue for low-income seniors who may not be able to financially afford to give back. With an average age of senior escort volunteers of around 74 years and an average age of clients of around 82 years, this program keeps clients and volunteers active and engaged longer with their communities through mutual support and friendship.
Sarah Call is LSCNW’s Director of Senior Volunteer Services, and she oversees the Senior Chaperone Program. “It’s unique compared to some of our other volunteer programs,” he says, and the program has demonstrated an immediate impact on the well-being of its clients. “We conduct surveys with clients and volunteers every year and they report every time an increase in quality of life due to their experience of having a senior companion.”
Social isolation is a growing health epidemic with depression as one of the most damaging effects. “It’s a physical health risk,” says Call. “Isolation and living alone increase mortality. Friendship can delay dementia and the need for treatment assistance, helping to overcome depression… Interaction is key.”
Through the application process and background checks, companions are extensively vetted before being matched with seniors. Some volunteers have many seniors under their care. Onboarding, specialized training and continuing education ensure that volunteers get the tools they need to be the best companions they can be, learning about things like how to set boundaries and HIPAA laws to protect sensitive patient health information, For example. Monthly in-service meetings bring volunteers together to meet one another and sometimes guest speakers are invited to speak on program-relevant topics. Volunteers commit to a minimum of five hours and up to 40 hours a week.
Volunteer Susan shares her story working with her client, Jean. “I have been seeing my Senior Assistance Program client for a few years now. My client lives alone in a small one bedroom apartment and recently separated from her husband. She is able to get out on a walker, however she needs physical therapy and occupational therapy. I can bring it to these necessary activities and appointments.
“My SCP client since being part of the program has improved greatly, as we have been able to attend SAIL (Staying Active in Life) classes at the Sumner Community Center. Several of her friends have attended, and she has met new ones. She is really involved. She is looking forward to (not returning) to his future. We know each other well now and have become great friends.”
To learn more about the LCSNW Senior Companion program, call (253) 722-5686 or email [email protected].