This past Monday, I attended a “Briefing at the White House for Senior Corps Program Leaders and Volunteers” through an invitation of a colleague who works for Legacy International. She had been invited, but was going out of town and thought of me as someone who might get a lot out of it for my work with the aging population. She was right.
Although neither President Obama nor the First Lady attended, there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm by those who did.
Senior Corps was a merger that occurred under President Clinton of three entities: Foster Grandparents; RSVP; and Senior Companions. This office serves under the Corporation for National Community Service, which serves under the Housing and Human Services and all, tongue in cheek, serve under Government Bureaucracy.
Actually, a lot of good work seems to be happening at the local level and the energy and level of enthusiasm in the room for the benefits of the program were apparent. Participants, who came from all over the United States, shared heart warming stories of how children’s lives, aging people, and the lives of the volunteers were changed by this program. The program offers three areas of service:
the Foster Grandparents program enables seniors to interact with and support young children. Open to seniors 55 and over, the program’s goal is to provide “grandparents” who will give emotional support to victims of abuse, to tutor children in need, mentor, and to care for children with disabilities. The participants receive pre-service and monthly training sessions, transportation reimbursement, an annual physical and accident and liability insurance while working with the child/children. Tax-free stipends are offered to foster grandparents who live under the poverty line to help offset any incurred costs.
The second program, RSVP, provides a way in which senior citizens can give back to their community. Flexible in nature, RSVP allows participants to choose how and when they work. Services include tutoring children, building homes, helping immunize children, relief services, and aid to community organizations. Volunteers are given a pre-service orientation, on-the-job training from the placement agency or organization, and supplemental insurance while on duty. Seniors also reach out to other seniors via telephone to ensure their well-being and to provide social time.
The Senior Companions program is aimed at helping citizens who need extra assistance to live independently, such as adults with disabilities or those with terminal illnesses and their caregivers. Participants provide both emotional and physical support by assisting with simple house chores, providing transportation, offering companionship, and simply adding richness to their clients’ lives. Because relationships do develop, one requirement is that a person must be able to provide anywhere from 15 to 40 hours service per week. These volunteers also receive pre-service and monthly training, transportation reimbursement, an annual physical, meals and accident and liability insurance while on duty. As with the foster grandparent program, those volunteers who exist under the poverty line receive a modest tax-free stipend for their time.
I made a lot of good contacts and saw many ways to implement some of these programs on a local level and potentially, through the work that Legacy International does, on an international level.
© Yvonne Behrens 2012