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Mon, June 24

Volunteering helps seniors stay connected

Feelings of isolation and lack of purpose often exist for seniors, especially for those who live alone. Volunteering one's time and talents provides mental stimulation, social interaction and a way for seniors to remain connected to the fabric of the community. Donating as little as one hour a week can make a big difference to those being helped, while increasing the volunteer's personal satisfaction and sense of self worth.

Almost every nonprofit agency uses volunteers. Regardless of one's talents or time availability, there is likely an organization that can use more help. Opportunities exist to work with children, adults and seniors, on virtually any topic of interest. All you need to do is pick up the phone and call an agency for whom you'd like to volunteer and ask what assistance is needed.

There's no better way to stay young at heart than to interact with children. Local elementary schools welcome volunteers to spend time with students who are in need of a little extra attention or assistance with homework. Call the school of your choice to begin the process.

Yavapai Regional Medical Center uses more than 900 volunteers, many of whom are seniors. Volunteers assist in every department. Whatever your interest, there's a place for you, including visiting with elderly patients who may not have family members nearby. To volunteer, call 771-5678 in Prescott or 442-8678 in Prescott Valley.

The Senior Peer Program at West Yavapai Guidance Clinic uses volunteers age 55 and above to provide peer support to others who are also above the age of 55. Volunteers meet one-on-one with seniors in need of a friendly ear and a caring heart in the extended tri-city area. Call 445-5211, ext. 2672, if interested.

If you'd prefer not to strike out on your own in your search for a volunteer assignment, RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) might be the way to go. The program coordinator understands the unique needs of senior volunteers and matches seniors with a wide variety of nonprofit agencies and schools in the community. For information, contact Jean Jongsma at 713-4114.

For seniors who are homebound, perhaps due to health limitations or lack of transportation, it can be a bit more challenging to find volunteer opportunities. Yet, there are significant ways to make a difference from the comfort of one's own home. Although generally not considered as volunteering in the traditional sense, don't underestimate the value of reaching out by phone to someone who might be feeling lonely or isolated. Call a neighbor, friend or relative who you know spends most of their time alone. The reason for your call can simply be to let them know you were thinking about them. You'll probably get as much pleasure from making the call, as will the recipient from getting it.

There's no reason to feel isolated and alone. Reach out and connect with someone.

Debbie Stewart is CEO of the Senior Connection and publishes the "Caregiver Connection" newsletter, a resource for seniors, caregivers and service providers. It includes information about support groups, meetings and services offered by local agencies, as well as articles on relevant topics. Free subscriptions are available via email. Contact Debbie@CaregiverConnection.us or call 778-3747. To view the current edition, visit www.CaregiverConnection.us.

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