Thursday, June 2, 2011

Volunteer Program for Older Adults: RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Video 3:45)

Years ago, I shared a conference keynote speaking engagement with Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson. Although we had not met before, we both spoke highly and at length about how our grandparents’ example had inspired us to embrace service.

Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement against foreign domination. He implemented a nonviolent philosophy of civil disobedience that inspired civil rights movements globally. Growing up in apartheid South Africa, Arun Gandhi had already learned from his grandfather the power of transforming the opponent through love and suffering.

My grandmother modeled service in her daily living. I observed her caring for others many times in ways such as giving food to strangers who knocked on her door. I recall comments some observers made about how she was being used, and she shouldn’t be giving her food away to strangers. But I saw her smiling as she looked out the window and watched recipients gobbling up her sandwiches and fruit. And she kept right on giving, never knowing that one day her granddaughter would praise her on something called the Internet. If she were alive today, she would be telling everybody at her church.

Thank goodness for all the older adults who continue to strive to make the world a better place by giving service to others. Fortunately, they don’t have to look far to find an organization like RSVP that can channel their enthusiasm into volunteer programs where their many skills can be matched appropriately with others’ needs. RSVP means Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. This federal program, which partners with local agencies across most states, is administered locally by both public and private organizations that serve the public in some way. Because of the wide range of services available, over 500,000 RSVP volunteers choose services they feel confident and comfortable in doing. Free training is included when necessary.

Of course, true service is always a win-win opportunity. Volunteers benefit with improved self-esteem, better health, more social interactions, and more learning experiences. They can also get reimbursed for some job-related costs. Research studies indicate that volunteering leads to a more positive mental attitude and to a longer life. This video explains the many services and rewards of volunteering with RSVP:

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.

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