By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Volunteering provides incredible benefits to older adults, including physical, emotional and cognitive benefits, according to Ann Cunningham, executive director at Oasis Rochester. “It also provides social and emotional support and opportunities for engagement in the community.”
In addition to offering opportunities for lifelong learning and health, Oasis Rochester also provides volunteer opportunities, including in its office, which is almost entirely operated by volunteers.
“Almost 65% of our courses are taught by volunteer instructors,” Cunningham said. “They are often retired teachers and professors who want to continue teaching subjects they love to participants who love to learn.”
If you are not sure where to start, reach out to area organizations like Oasis or AmeriCorps Seniors, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) at Lifespan. Manager Deb Palumbos said that the organization has many of opportunities available for retiree volunteers.
“Lifespan is hosting pop-up vaccine clinics and we need support in several needs,” Palumbos said as an example of current opportunities. “Right now, I don’t know when the congregant meal sites will open again. We have volunteers delivering food to people who no longer can attend. They’ve been doing this for the past year. We always need more people to help. The volunteers who are doing it are stretched. They’re stepping up to do everything.”
She would also like to have more volunteers available to drive older adults to medical appointments, COVID-19 vaccination sites, grocery shopping and to social events. These volunteers must have a safe vehicle and a clean driving record.
For volunteers who cannot participate in driving programs, RSVP’s Silver Line New York program matches volunteers with call receivers.
“It’s a way to create social engagement for seniors who might not have friends or family around,” Palumbos said. “It’s a nice way to get the attention on them for one phone call a week.”
The Generation 2 program places older adults in schools to spend 30 minutes a week with one elementary-aged child. Though on pause since the beginning of the pandemic, the child-directed program helps children who may lack grandparents feel more comfortable in social settings as they read, draw or enjoy other activities with a “foster grandparent” at school. Palumbos anticipates Generation 2 opening in the fall again.
RSVP’s health and wellness programs enlist volunteers as peer leaders and coaches. Volunteers receive training to lead workshops of older adults on a variety of health and wellness topics, such as fall prevention, tai chi for arthritis and Aging Mastery.
AmeriCorps can also help anyone who wants to volunteer to find opportunities with other nonprofit organizations, “or they can serve through us and support the agency or program that best meets their interests,” Palumbos said.
She recommends every retiree take a year to volunteer through the organization.
“It’s mobilizing people to serve their communities and is so rewarding,” she added. “You can see when volunteers see things that spark their interest. Their faces light up and you can see their enthusiasm. There might not be an opportunity to serve right away, but we have the ability to create opportunities based on induvial skills and passions.”
In addition to Oasis and RSVP opportunities, ask at your house of worship, your grandchildren’s school or visit www.cityofrochester.gov/categories/topics/volunteerandgivingopportunities.