A National Volunteer Care Corps for Older Adults

A National Volunteer Care Corps for Older Adults

In the category of great ideas, here's one: create a Peace Corps-like organization to help older adults with caregiving needs. That's just what the Administration for Community Living (ACL), part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is doing.

Last fall, ACL awarded a five-year cooperative agreement to the Oasis Institute for $3.8 million to establish a National Volunteer Care Corps. The Oasis Institute, in partnership with the Caregiver Action Network, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and Altarum, will foster innovative models in which volunteers assist family caregivers, older adults or persons with disabilities, with nonmedical care to maintain their independence.

Kaiser Health News reports that "If the effort gets underway healthy retirees and young adults would take seniors to doctor appointments, shop for groceries, shovel snowy sidewalks, make a bed or mop the floor, or simply visit a few times a week."

Help with household tasks wouldn't be the only benefit; older adults would also have some companionship and relief from social isolation.

The need for this type of help is huge because of the millions of older Americans and the millions that have multiple chronic illnesses that make performing daily tasks difficult. Currently, most of the people that do the caregiving are family members.

Last year, project leaders for the Volunteer Care Corps invited organizations across the country to submit proposals to serve the "nonmedical" needs of older adults and younger adults with disabilities. This spring, up to 30 organizations will get 18-month grants of $30,000 to $250,000. The goal is to discover innovative, effective programs that offer services to diverse communities (geographic, racial, and ethnic), and that can be replicated in multiple locations.

The timing of when the National Volunteer Care Corps will be up and running isn't known. However, there are other volunteer programs in existence that serve seniors, but most are small, and many people don't know about them.

One of the largest is Seniors Corp. About 10,500 volunteers average 15-20 hours per week, serving 33,000 seniors through this program. Their research found that volunteers receive many benefits from giving to others, such as feeling less isolated and less depressed and reported stable or improving health.

To learn about other volunteer programs in your community, contact a local senior center, a nearby Area Agency on Aging, your county's department of aging, or the National Volunteer Caregiving Network.

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