By Rose Leyba
Seniors Use Service to Strengthen Community
Bessie, an AmeriCorps member, writes that the AmeriCorps pledge sums up the services that we provide and adds, “The AmeriCorps pledge encourages a strong commitment and bond between members and clients. This pledge has a great impact.”
The Los Ancianos: Seniors Serving Seniors program seeks to enable people over 62 years of age and those with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life by remaining independent in their homes, avoiding institutionalization and re-hospitalization. There are two components to the program: informal in-home services provided by AmeriCorps members, 55-plus who provide friendly visits, grocery shopping, and transportation to medical appointments and pharmacies; and the Wellness Programs, staffed by members in underserved senior centers where activities such as fitness instruction, health education, and medical screening are provided free of charge.
The service these members provide perfectly embodies the AmeriCorps pledge:
I will get things done for America – to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier. Los Ancianos members who coordinate the wellness program in senior centers present workshops on Matter of Balance, an evidenced-based program that focuses on addressing the fear of falling, strategies to improve balance, flexibility and strength, and making homes safe for seniors. During the past three years, more than 200 people took part in the classes. Additionally, over 700 seniors have participated in fitness classes and other programs that have improved or maintained their health and enables them to live independently and improve their quality of life.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities. Wellness coordinators really work with senior center participants to engage them in community activities within their center and make sure that they get out into the wider community. For example, Lucy from the Glendale Senior Center welcomes seniors from the Gompers Foundation to participate in center activities and also makes sure that the Glendale seniors get out into the community for shopping, museums, and dining experiences. Florence helps tutor elderly refugees in pre-literate classes so they can become American citizens.
Faced with apathy, I will take action. Christine, a care coordinator, noticed that one of her clients was experiencing a decline in memory and was dealing with some financial institutions that raised her suspicions. Christine took the time to get a son living out of state involved and straightened out the mess — even finding a foster home for the woman’s dog. Bobbie noticed that one of her clients had a wound that would not heal and persevered with the case manager until the problem was addressed. Bessie requested a bathroom safety check for her client and consequently all the safety equipment needed was installed free of charge.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground. Although most of the people served by the AmeriCorps members are congenial, at times they deal with cranky, difficult-to-please seniors. Because of their compassion, patience, the training they receive, and the ability to understand individual circumstances, the members are able to provide service that is praised by their clients.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere. Despite their age, chronic conditions, and other limitations, many of the members continue to serve. Phyllis B. suffers with almost constant pain, Rosa uses a walker, Joan and Connie are both recovering from major surgery, Mariana had a fall which left her in a neck brace for three months, Phyllis L. is a caregiver for her husband, and Lucy rides a bus 30 miles round trip to her work site.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond. The pledge is recited every month at the AmeriCorps meeting as a reminder of the commitment that was made at the beginning of the term. AmeriCorps members have engaged volunteers at the senior centers, who have contributed more than 300 hours since October 2013. Several members are serving their fourth term and plan to continue in volunteer service at term’s end.
I am an AmeriCorps Member, and I will get things done.
Inspiration comes from the affiliation with the Corporation for National and Community Service as a member of AmeriCorps. With the training and personal experiences, these AmeriCorps members are inspired and committed to get things done for their communities and for America.
Rose Leyba is the Los Ancianos AmeriCorps Program Manager.