Friday, April 3, 2015

Young Volunteers Needed for Older Adults (Video 5:31)

In 2020, one in six Americans will be an older adult. Younger volunteers are increasingly needed to provide services for this rapidly growing population. My earliest memory of feeding a nursing home patient was not after I became an adult hospice volunteer. It was during my high school days when I joined a school club that encouraged me to make a positive difference in people's lives through service. Many times long-lasting seeds for service are sown with the young. Fortunately, I had opportunities to see service encouraged and modeled.

High school and college volunteers can benefit greatly in win-win partnerships that serve older adults. They often learn about career choices they may not have considered. On college resumes, potential employers look for service as an indication of good character. Some hospices and other healthcare facilities have teenage and young adult volunteers doing the following assignments:

1. Perform in-office work including filing, faxing, and preparing admission packets.
2. Host tea parties, movies, and other social events at nursing homes.
3. Provide one-on-one time and attention by reading to, writing letters for, playing games with, or simply talking and listening to patients.
4. Videotape, record, or make booklets of patients’ life reviews.
5. Assist families with yard work, cleaning out the garage, planting flowers, small paint jobs, and home-building projects (i.e. wheelchair ramps).
6. Assist patients and families by doing errands, walking dogs, picking up groceries, etc.

Little Brothers -Friends of the Elderly is a national network in America of non-profit volunteer-based organizations committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly. It serves those who are sixty and older who have no support in their immediate area. Their most important service is the Friendly Visiting Program where a volunteer is matched with an older adult friend. In this video, a 23-year-old volunteer shares his positive experiences with his “10 grandmas and 10 grandpas.” 

If you know other organizations that primarily serve older adults through volunteers, please mention them in the comments.

Note: Winner of the National Service-Learning Partnership Trailblazer Award, Frances Shani Parker, a national service-learning consultant, hospice volunteer, and former school principal, has been instrumental in implementing service-learning in school districts across the country. Service-learning is a teaching and learning approach that connects academic learning with meeting community needs. Her book includes a chapter on intergenerational partnerships between schools and nursing homes.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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