Since 1963, the month of May has been designated Older Americans Month, a time set aside to recognize and appreciate the value of older people in our communities. This year’s theme, Unleash the Power of Age, is an appropriate way to characterize the contributions that many older people make as they teach others the skills they’ve refined over the years, support those in need or engage in civic matters.
There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history, and most of the contributions they make are voluntary. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 volunteer rate for older adults was 26.5 percent, which represents a massive contribution to our social well-being.
The Broome County Office for Aging provides support, opportunities and recognition for older people in order to maximize their ability to make these valuable contributions. In an effort to help elders remain independent in their homes as long as possible, they provide educational services and programs that enhance the quality of life for many of Broome County’s elders.
The gifts that older people make to their families and communities are priceless, but all too often they are overlooked. The Broome County Office for Aging has recognized Barbara Bagan and Marta Alomar as volunteers who are Unleashing the Power of Age in their communities.
After completing a 42-year career, Barbara began looking for volunteer opportunities. She volunteered as a driver for Meals on Wheels in the Conklin area for 12 years and has also volunteered with the Office for Aging HEAP office for more than 10 years. Literacy Volunteers and Broome County Council of Churches have also benefited from her talents as a volunteer. Barbara says volunteering gives her an awareness of what is going on in the community and she appreciates that connection. “Doing something for others is the greatest reward,” she says.
Marta is a foster grandparent who has fun at the Broome County YMCA Y’s Kids Child Care Center where she has volunteered for 5 years. She says, “I love playing with the kids and reading books to them.” Her volunteer work there is greatly appreciated. Tammy Donnelly, assistant director of Child Care at the Y, says, “I don’t know what we would do without her. She is patient, helpful and good with any age.”
As you look ahead to the coming year, think about ways you can recognize elders like these and make additional efforts to Unleash the Power of Age in your community. It’s a “win-win” proposition because when we create opportunities for elders to share their many talents and engage in service to others we also help them stay positive, active, and vibrant.