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Senior volunteers play vital role
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Dear Editor:  For more than 40 years, the three Senior Corps programs – RSVP, Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions – have engaged age 55-plus volunteers in service to meet critical needs. Last year more than 500,000 Senior Corps volunteers provided 98 million hours of service estimated to be worth more than 2 billion dollars. The first ever Senior Corps week – is taking place September 20-24 – to celebrate the extraordinary commitment and contribution made by Senior Corps volunteers. It will recognize how service by older Americans benefits everyone – volunteers, the community and our nation. It helps volunteers by keeping them active, healthy and engaged; it helps communities to have millions more skilled volunteers; and it helps our nation by saving taxpayer dollars, reducing healthcare costs and strengthening our democracy.
During the 2009-2010 fiscal year, ended June 30, 2010, the volunteers in Bryan County gave 2,943 hours of care to adults and the frail elderly. This care improved the economy of Bryan County by upwards of $8,000.
Older Americans bring a lifetime of skills and experience as parents, workers and citizens that can be tapped to meet challenges in communities across the country.
Senior Companions enable tens of thousands of frail and elderly adults to live independently in their own homes. In the past year 15,200 Senior Companions provided more than 12.2 millions hours of service for 68,200 clients.
There are considerable health benefits to volunteering. A report by the Corporation for National Service, The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, found a significant connection between volunteering and good health. The report shows that volunteers have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease. Research suggests that volunteering is particularly beneficial to the health of older adults and those serving 100 hours annually.
A study of adults age 65 and older found that the positive effect of volunteering on physical and mental health is due to the personal sense of accomplishment an individual gains from his or her volunteer activities.
Senior Corps volunteers make our communities safer, stronger and healthier and improve the lives of millions of our most vulnerable citizens. Senior Corps service isn’t just nice – it’s necessary – and its impacts are proven and measurable.
Senior Companions provide a cost-effective and necessary component of continuum of care required for an aging population. A Corporation cost-benefit study indicates significant economic value beyond the cost of the program, including delayed nursing home entry and increasing caregivers’ ability to work. Last year communities contributed $18.6 million in non-federal funds, considerably more than the 10% match required.
Margie Pevey, Director
GSU Area Senior Companion Program
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