There are several little known programs around this area and across the country that provides lots of benefit to millions of people. They are the Foster Grandparents Program, Senior Companion Program and RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) collectively known as Senior Corps (related to AmeriCorps). Each of these efforts involves volunteers over 55 years of age that provide vital support in our communities.
The Senior Companion Program pairs senior volunteers with frail or disabled individuals who are homebound. By taking care of routine chores and providing transportation to medical appointments or the grocery store, Senior Companions are often the only reason that frail or disabled senior citizens are able to remain in their homes and avoid living in a costly long-term care facility. More than 700,000 frail and disabled Americans are able to continue living on their own because of Senior Companion volunteers, saving the federal government millions of dollars.
The Foster Grandparents Program pairs senior volunteers with at-risk and special needs children in schools, youth shelters, and correctional facilities. The presence of a Foster Grandparent has marked improvement on the reading skills, school attendance, and behavior of the 140,000 children that they mentor. Without Foster Grandparents, local schools and facilities would not be able to afford to pay for the individual attention that these children need in order to keep up with their peers.
Through RSVP, seniors across the country are connected to volunteer opportunities with over 65,000 local organizations. Not only does RSVP ensure that senior volunteers’ skills are best matched to a local organization, it also guarantees that volunteers time is put to use satisfying whatever unique needs their communities may have. Additionally, senior volunteers reap the mental and physical benefits of remaining active.
In the current 2015 budget proposal from the President each of these programs will be cut (RSVP suffering the worst with the elimination of 66% of its federal funding). These cuts fly in the face of common sense. These programs save money by keeping other elderly out of long term care facilities or helping children catch up with their peers academically. RSVP locally helps organizations like local food banks, meals on wheels, museums, libraries and many other great agencies.
As more and more Americans reach 60 years of age we need avenues where they can participate and help solve problems in their communities. These Senior Corps programs are part of that solution. I urge those in Congress to oppose this aspect of the Administration’s 2015 proposed budget. I urge everyone else to write to their Senators (Cornyn and Cruz) or Representatives in Washington (Carter and Conaway) and ask that they oppose these changes and cuts in funding to Senior Corps (sister programs to AmeriCorps and part of the Corporation for National and Community Service).
In these challenging days, we need the wisdom and heartfelt efforts of those elders willing to volunteer to help struggling non-profits achieve their goals.