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Volunteer Programs Win Awards

August 28, 2013 in Making a Difference

At three Area Agencies on Aging, volunteers have helped provide older adults with holiday gifts, free computers and computer classes, and companionship.

These programs were three of the 57 that received 2013 Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards and had a strong volunteer component. The awards, sponsored by CST your Link to Life (CST-LTL), were given at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) 2013 annual conference, held in Louisville,KY, in late July.

  • Giving Holiday Gifts to Older Adults

Angel Tree/Generations, Area 13 Agency on Aging (Vincennes, IN) – 2013 Aging Achievement Award

By partnering, Generations clients are able to receive gifts through the Christmas Angel Tree Project run by St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.  The project originally granted Christmas wishes to less fortunate children, and then enlisted the help of Generations in 2010 to include older adults. Case managers submit the names of clients needing help. Parishioners anonymously purchase gifts for a child or an older adult, wrap them and return them to the church. Case managers personally deliver the gifts to their clients during home visits.

Budget: There are no direct costs for Generations. RSVP volunteers collect names and make tags, and their office is the distribution site for all the gifts.

Accomplishments: In 2012, 50 homebound clients received gifts, and their joy is immeasurable. Items include postage stamps, envelopes, grocery gift cards, pet treats, and blood pressure cuffs and bathroom scales that help monitor chronic health concerns.

Replication: Partner with a church, club or organization to provide a similar project at any time of the year.

Contact: Jane Hall, Proposal/Project Manager, Generations

  • Getting Older Adults Online

Choice & Independence via Technology, Region IV Area Agency on Aging (St. Joseph, MI) – 2013 Aging Innovations Award

This program is based on a partnership and since 2010 has provided 180 low-income seniors more than 3,500 hours of free basic computer classes and 115 free refurbished computers.

The internet has the potential to deliver health information to older adults, expanding their ability to live active, independent lives. Yet many seniors lack the skills and technology to access that information. Recognizing access to technology as an essential vehicle for maximizing choice and independence, Region IV Area Agency on Aging (RIV) partnered with local industry, funders, volunteers and the Workforce Development Board to create the Choice & Independence via Technology program.

The program provides low-income seniors free basic computer classes and, upon completion, a free refurbished computer if they do not own one. Scholarships provide additional classes for those interested in personal enrichment or gaining marketable skills. Also, to expand the effectiveness and reach of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), RIV developed classes on navigating Medicare resources and benefit information online.

Budget: Startup costs included a mobile learning lab with 13 laptops, one projector and one wireless router ($21,966). Annual costs of $7,600 include volunteer mileage ($600) and scholarships ($7,000). Annual in-kind support from RIV includes staff time ($11,306) and volunteer time ($27,060). RIV secured funding for the laptops and scholarships. A local hospital and manufacturer donate used computers. A computer recycling center and volunteers refurbish the computers.

Accomplishments: Since program inception in 2010, 180 seniors received 3,536 hours of free computer instruction (221 classes). Ninety-two percent report gaining increased marketable job skills, having reduced social isolation, and/or feeling empowered to access health and wellness information via the internet. Low-income seniors received 115 refurbished computers, of which 97 percent still are in use.

Through the Navigating Medicare.gov and Welcome to Medicare classes, 155 Medicare beneficiaries learned to self-educate, access benefit information and make plan choices for themselves.

Replication: The project hinges on strong volunteer recruitment, training and support practices. Partnership development with industry, technology providers and funders is needed for successful program replication.

Contact: Christine Vanlandingham, Fund & Product Development Officer, Region IV Area Agency on Aging

  • Keeping Older Adults Safe and Engaged

YANA (You Are Not Alone)/Central Oregon Council On Aging (Bend, OR) – 2013 Aging Achievement Award

YANA connects highly trained volunteers to seniors as friendly companions. Volunteers regularly make social visits to homebound seniors, do small tasks like changing light bulbs and watering plants, and provide feedback to case manager. They receive two to four hours of quarterly training to ensure knowledge of resources available to seniors and caregivers, how to spot warning signs of problems and safety procedures.

Budget: Donations funded development of training and materials. A volunteer manager coordinates the program with the assistance of interns from a local university gerontology program.

Accomplishments: Feedback from volunteers and seniors is positive. Volunteers are satisfied and ask for more seniors to visit as they enjoy the interaction and socialization.

Replication: The largest component of the program involves training volunteers and establishing effective communication processes.

Contact: Pamela Norr, Executive Officer, Central Oregon Council on Aging

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