By Barbara Raynor
AmeriCorps members age 55 and over bring a lifetime of skills and wisdom as they provide health services to thousands of Denver residents
Whenever I tell people about our AmeriCorps Encore program that mobilizes adults 55 and over, their reaction is always the same: “You can be 55 and over and be in AmeriCorps?”
Yep. You can be 55 and be in AmeriCorps! In fact, there’s no upper age limit.
Since July 2011, Boomers Leading Change in Health has recruited, trained, and placed 77 adults age 55 and over as AmeriCorps encore members. They’ve served at nearly a dozen host sites across Metro Denver. They’ve collectively dedicated 67,677 hours serving as patient navigators, community health workers, health coaches, and volunteer coordinators. And they’ve “changed the world again” for more than 31,000 people in so many ways:
- Helping our community’s medically-underserved overcome barriers to care and gain access to vital healthcare resources
- Teaching people diagnosed with chronic diseases and other health challenges how to take better care of themselves and their loved ones
- Reducing hospital readmission rates and ensuring that patients transition more successfully from hospital to home
- Helping local nonprofits build their capacity by recruiting hundreds of volunteers.
What’s particularly special about adults 55+ is that they bring a unique set of attributes to their roles as AmeriCorps members. Attributes they’ve acquired through a lifetime of experiences - like Knowledge. Wisdom. Patience. Tenacity. Perspective. Maturity. Calm. The list goes on and on.
AmeriCorps Encore members are great role players and great team players. They are creative, critical thinkers and effective problem-solvers. They have an excellent work ethic and a remarkable track record. And, they have the willingness, the desire, and the commitment to make a real difference.
Here in Denver, Monica has spent the past year-and-a-half helping Prae, a Burmese refugee. When Prae (a wife and mother of three) arrived in Denver, she had little energy and often felt dizzy and faint. Because Prae had no transportation and spoke no English, she wasn’t getting to her doctors’ appointments—so Monica began taking her. Twelve months later, Prae learned she had a congenital heart defect that required open heart surgery. While Prae has not yet fully-recovered, her prognosis is good. But without the dedication and continued intervention of this AmeriCorps member, her story could have ended quite differently.
At Boomers Leading Change in Health, our tagline is “It’s time to change the world again.” More often than not, the world is changed not by grand events or sweeping gestures, but by one person helping another person in his or her time of need. It is both humbling and gratifying to witness the impact that person’s selflessness, dedication, and resolve can have on the life of another. And it is an honor to play even a small part as our AmeriCorps Encore members continue to change the world again for so many people across our community.
Barbara Raynor is the Managing Director of Boomers Leading Change in Health, an AmeriCorps program in Denver.