Older Americans are ‘social capital’ supporting our communities

In our community and all across the country, older Americans form the backbone of the volunteer corps that keeps our civic, social, health, veterans, community, and faith-based organizations going. Being retired, many are eager to offer their time for programs and causes that they are interested in.

While many retirees volunteer informally when time permits, there are other structured volunteer opportunities like the federally-funded Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Community Caregivers is one of a number of volunteer-based programs that participates in this region’s RSVP.

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on the importance of the “social capital” of older volunteers, that is, the valuable resource that their volunteerism provides in the community.  More and more, there are examples of the importance of using volunteers and peers to address social needs.

New organizations have sprung up like ReServe (www.reserveinc.org), which is now in many larger cities, where older persons with professional skills earn a stipend for working in a community agency.  Using this social capital is increasingly becoming a strategy for organizations working with ReServe, such as a dementia coaching project that has several ReServe volunteers working with a health provider in the New York City area.

Community Caregivers, which started in Altamont as a not-for-profit community organization, has approximately 150 volunteers actively helping their neighbors live independently in the community. For many, volunteering with our organization is not only a service to their neighbors but a personally rewarding and gratifying experience.

And, volunteering also impacts health and wellness. A lot of research shows that volunteering is good for your health and can lead to better health and even perhaps a longer lifespan.

It is important to recognize, support, and honor our volunteers. Like other volunteer organizations, Community Caregivers does so at volunteer recognition events during the year. It is an honor well deserved.

We continue to seek more volunteers and more ways that volunteers can help both their neighbors individually and also further improve the quality of life in the community.

Please consider joining us for a new volunteer session this fall. Adults of all ages and teens with their parents are welcome:

— Volunteer orientations are scheduled at the office of Community Caregivers the first Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. and third Thursdays at noon, or upon request.

— To register or to request more information, please call (518) 456-2898 or contact us by email:   .

You also may contact the RSVP Coordinator, Susan Napierski, to learn of diverse area volunteer opportunities for volunteers 55 years of age and older. Her number is (518) 459-2857 X308.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Michael Burgess is a health policy consultant for Community Caregivers Inc.