Each year, more than 170,000 older Americans make time to serve in their communities through one of several AmeriCorps Seniors programs.
AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serve with organizations dedicated to helping others. With AmeriCorps Seniors, older Americans choose how they want to give back to their communities – whether it’s helping a struggling child learn to read, delivering groceries to an elderly neighbor, or supporting a family whose lives were affected by natural disaster.
A growing body of research shows that not only do older Americans who volunteer make a difference to their communities and those they serve, but they reap the benefits of giving back too. Volunteering has been proven to reduce isolation, help manage depression, and strengthen community connections.
“Senior volunteers are vital to our nation,” said Atalaya Sergi, director, AmeriCorps Seniors. “They bring a wealth of expertise and skillsets that can only be acquired through life-experience. By sharing through national service, older Americans help us unite and meet community needs together.”
Led by Administration for Community Living, Older Americans Month recognizes and acknowledges past and current older Americans’ contributions to the nation. We are grateful to these volunteers who help lift up communities, serving more than 47 million hours each year.
Following this year’s Older Americans Month theme, Age My Way, we are honored to share a few examples of how AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers are serving their communities safely so that others can live their best lives.
Communities benefit from older volunteers
AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers come from all walks of life. They serve with hundreds of organizations that make changes in communities across the country.
The RSVP program, founded in 1971, welcomes older Americans 55 years and older to serve. As one of the largest volunteer efforts in the nation for seniors, RSVP links volunteers’ skills with the identified needs of the community.
RSVP volunteers serve in many ways, such as tutoring and mentoring youth, responding to natural disasters, supporting veterans and their families, and meeting other critical needs. They also renovate homes for low-income individuals and deliver meals and groceries to individuals with limited to no support.
“If I just stayed at home, I’d end up depressed,” said Yasmeen, an RSVP volunteer who joined after retiring. “This volunteer program reduces stress and isolation and provides a purpose. I’m fortunate and blessed that God gave me the opportunity to do so many things for the community. At the end of a day of volunteering, I feel so happy.”
Older Americans make a difference in mentoring
Many older Americans also share their life-skills and expertise to mentor children and younger adults through programs in classrooms and community centers. The Foster Grandparent Program – one of AmeriCorps Seniors’ oldest programs – connects volunteers to children, students, and younger adults where seniors take on pivotal roles to help shape future generations. They guide students to higher academic achievement, care for premature infants or children with disabilities, and mentor at-risk teenagers, and young mothers, too.
Foster Grandparents, like volunteer Ms. Hazel Hatley, serve with the purpose of ensuring children in their community are safe and have an adult role model. Ms. Hatley serves at Children’s Health of Dallas to welcome at-risk children who have been neglected, are failing to thrive, or have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.
“Several of these children are in the foster care system or have an active case with Child Protective Services. They come into the clinic anxious and scared,” said Ms. Hatley. “As a grandparent, I work to make sure these visits are just a little more bearable for everyone. I want these children to know that they are loved and beautiful, no matter their circumstances.”
Ms. Hatley’s dedication and love for children and her community impacted the lives of more than 4,000 children.
Read more about the creative ways Foster Grandparents like Ms. Hatley help kids in school.
Volunteers help people stay independent longer
Through the Senior Companion Program, volunteers provide supportive, individualized services to help older adults with special needs. Not only do these volunteers help with physical needs, but they also help their companions with daily routines – allowing them to better maintain independence and age with dignity.
Companions befriend older adults and assist with daily living tasks, either in homes or within housing communities. And they provide supportive services such as transportation to appointments, assistance with grocery shopping, and cooking meals.
Senior Companions have been especially essential during COVID-19. Older Americans were more at-risk to get sick, and to suffer from isolation while staying at home. Volunteers ensured their peers had what they needed and arranged meetings, either in-person or virtually, so that their companions had someone to connect with regularly.
Senior companions, Bob and Karl, visit older adults in care facilities who are isolated and have no family or friends to visit. They share about community happenings, play games, read to them, and create great friendships. However, the pandemic took away their ability to serve in person. During this time, Bob and Karl reach out by calling and sending cards to those they typically visit.
When Valentine's Day came, they couldn’t celebrate normally in the facility with the residents. Instead, these two volunteers wrote 105 thoughtful Valentine cards for each of the older adults. Bob and Karl not only enjoy interacting with older Americans, but they truly care about the residents, their wellbeing, and work tirelessly to keep in touch, even when the pandemic tried to keep them apart.
Senior volunteers make a lasting difference
Throughout the past five decades, AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers have been a focal point for our communities. Their wisdom and commitment help shape our communities for the better.
Know a senior ready to volunteer and make a difference? Celebrate Older Americans Month by joining us! Learn more about AmeriCorps Seniors programs and volunteers.