Saturday, August 09, 2008

What about Community Service? Working with Seniors

There are many opportunities to enrich the lives of your home schooled teens by matching them up with a senior citizen. Seniors often need help that a teen might provide, whether they live independently or in an assisted living or even long term care facility.

Here are some representative listings of current opportunities to work with seniors in New Jersey from just one volunteering website.

Computer Tutor - Tutor seniors on computer basics, such as e-mail, surfing the internet, etc.

Friendly visitor - Read, play games, converse, walk, attend programs together or be a " Special Pal" to one particular resident.

Walking with a Senior - Walk with a senior or group of seniors indoors or outdoors on facility property.

In House mail delivery at senior facility.

Visit with Senior residents - Spend some time with our senior residents and it will be as rewarding for you as it is for them! Share your stories, play an instrument, read to them, play a game, or just take a walk with them and enjoy the scenery.

Craft time - Come teach our resident seniors a craft OR share your hobby/collection with us!

Special event recorder - Volunteer as a photographer at special events throughout the year. Help set up for special events.

LINK is a volunteer support program that places high school students with elderly or disabled residents. Students visit one to two hours each week, providing friendship across the generations, learning from their elder friends, and performing a few light housekeeping tasks.

Good grief, that alone could keep you busy for a long time. And most schools only require 20-40 hours of community service to be rendered over four years. Not that we need to feel that we have to match the schools in every "requirement", but there are many benefits to volunteering that have nothing to do with meeting someone's bogus "requirements."

I can remember that my mother-in-law had several teenaged helpers over the years who performed light housekeeping and ran errands. She was disabled and was only able to leave the house with great difficulty, but she was also fiercely independent, and determined to live alone for as long as possible.

The relationships she developed with the girls who came to her as part of the program lasted for the rest of her life, and in several cases have extended to the rest of our family and endured through the years since her death.

She was not the only one who benefited from the relationships - in every case these girls received love and valuable mentoring from a very wise woman. Not only that, she lived in a two-family house upstairs from HER 90 year old mother who was constantly in and out of the apartment.

I am so grateful that my children had the unique experience of a close relationship with a senior. Most teens these days probably have grandparents my age or a little older, so they may not really have the chance to be an intimate companion of someone who is REALLY old during those impressionable teen years. My daughter knew three out of four of her grandparents, and two of her great grandmothers - one of whom lived to 104!

If you are involved with a church, there are probably elderly members who could use some kind of assistance. Check with your pastor or volunteer coordinator for more information. If you are not involved with a church, there are a number of organizations that can connect you with opportunities to work with Seniors. A few of these are listed here.

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