Volunteers Help in Aging Programs
Volunteers have been significant contributors to the aging services network. Each year about ten million people use Older Americans Act (OAA) services, whose delivery largely depends
upon the efforts of dedicated volunteers in the community.
Volunteers help in many ways, including: assisting at group meals sites and delivering meals to the home-bound elderly; escorting and transporting frail older persons to health care services, to do essential shopping errands and to other needed services; visiting homebound elderly to help ensure their well-being through regular social contacts; counseling older persons in a variety of areas including health promotion, nutrition, legal and financial concerns; as well as serving as a long-term care ombudsman representative to help ensure the safety and well-being of residents in long-term care facilities.
Overall, in California:
- 25.0% of residents volunteer, ranking California 35th among the 50 states
- 7.22 million Volunteers
- 940.5 million hours of service
- $21.2 billion of service contributed
- 32.5 volunteer hours per capita
- 58.3% of residents engage in "informal volunteering" (for example, doing favors for neighbors)
A Volunteer Story!
Volunteers can play a critical role in communities across the State of California. Older volunteers are in an excellent position to volunteer. In many ways they may have the time as well as the experience and expertise to help in a variety of activities.
CDA is celebrating the contributions of the State's older volunteers. We especially want to recognize and share stories about the vitality of older adults in their many volunteer capacities. Below are some stories from across the state of how volunteers are making a difference.
As described by the Santa Barbara County Family Service Agency, Mike Leu is a “superhero to an often overlooked population: frail elders.” As a Certified Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman representative, Mike Leu volunteers an average of eighty hours a month advocating for elder residents of long-term care facilities throughout Santa Barbara County. Before becoming an Ombudsman representative, Mike said he was completely unaware of the problems facing older adults. “There has been and continues to be an explosions on under-prepared elderly people who find themselves in care facilities and don’t know their rights.” A former aerospace engineer who worked on the Apollo program, Leu finds being a LTC Ombudsman representative a perfect fit. Once he “stopped working for money,” Leu looked for an opportunity where he could use his problem solving, mediating and investigative skills to help others, skills he honest after receiving a law degree and spending three decades as a reserve deputy sheriff in Santa Barbara County.
Over the course of his seven years as an Ombudsman representative, Leu has collected many stories that illustrate the vital nature of his work. In one case that he investigated, “a resident of a care facility reported that money was disappearing from her bank account, and so I worked with the bank to institute protections against additional losses and arranged for someone to provide assistance with her finances. I determined the unauthorized withdrawals were being made by an elderly relative of the resident. Further investigation revealed that the relative was herself being abused and coerced to make the withdrawals by a man who had recently become involved in her life. This information was shared with law enforcement, and the man was ultimately arrested. In the end, two separate elder abuse situations were resolved in this case.”
Rita Saenz grew up as the second oldest in a family of nine children. She says it was a perfect learning situation for working with volunteers, although, she admits that she and her brothers and sisters were not always willing volunteers around the house. Since she was 18, Rita has worked with, and served as a volunteer - beginning as a community organizer while living in East Los Angeles.
She says that one of her most rewarding experiences was as the Executive Director of The Holiday Project, which relied completely on volunteers except for herself and the bookkeeper. During those years 20,000 volunteers across the country visited and provided gifts to over 200,000 residents in nursing homes, and other institutions during the holidays. The theme of the program was “You are the Gift”, and Rita says this is where she really learned the value of volunteering.
Rita is a member of the CA Commission on Aging, appointed by Governor Brown in 2013 and reappointed in 2016 for another three-year term. She is on the Executive Committee and chairs the Legislative Committee.
She is also a volunteer member of the CA AARP Executive Council and AARP’s National Policy Council. In this role, her commitment to meeting the needs of seniors from all walks of life and supporting other volunteers gives her the most satisfaction. Their top issues have been the protection of Medicare, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act. These efforts also include the issues of grandparents responsible for grandchildren, including their upbringing and often their student loans, plus consumer protection issues for older adults.
Rita volunteers on the Advisory Board for the UC California Program on Access to Care, which advises the University and the Legislature and serves on the Coalition on Asset Building California, which focuses on helping low-income families to protect their assets and building their resources. One of their top issues has been the Secure Choice Retirement of California, offering a chance for all workers have a chance to save toward retirement. Finally, representing AARP, Rita sits on the Latino Caregiver Coalition in Los Angeles, a two-year project designed to do outreach and better serve Latino family caregivers.
The Riverside County Office on Aging describes Gloria Sanchez as a highly visible volunteer and advocate for older adults, particularly those with disabilities. In her passion to help the community, over the past 20 years she has been participating in various city, county, and state organizations to ensure that services to older adults are available.
Ms. Sanchez has been a member of the Riverside County Advisory Council on Aging for fifteen years, serving as Chair from 2012-15. In addition, Ms. Sanchez serves as President of the Riverside County Foundation on Aging, a not-for-profit organization with a long and successful history of supporting seniors and seniors with disabilities in the area. In this capacity, she has been involved in organizing the Annual Charity Golf Tournament, and also in coordinating the Annual Holiday Gift Card program which distributes food gift cards to older adults to assist them with participating in the spirit of the holiday season.
Ms. Sanchez’s other activities include organizing and participating in Community Outreach and Planning Seminars for both State Senator Jeff Stone and Supervisor Marion Ashley, where she conducts outreach to educate and help residents in need of services to connect with resources in the community. She also serves on the Area Agency on Aging Council of California, the President’s Council for the Independent Living Partnership, and the California Elder Justice Coalition (in Sacramento).
In her home town of Menifee, Ms. Sanchez is Chair of the Menifee Citizens Advisory Committee, and serves on the Menifee Senior Advisory Committee. She also sits on the Advisory Board for the Kay Ceniceros Senior Center, where she regularly meets with seniors to discuss their needs and concerns.
Jane Eckels, Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging - "I have received much more than I have been given."
As described by the Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging (AAA), "Ms. Eckels' nine
years on the AAA Advisory Council has made significant contributions to the
well-being of seniors throughout the community.
She has been actively involved in
committees and workgroups, chairing the Legislative committee, Transportation
and Mobility Committee, Executive Committee, Advisory Council and was a founding
member of the Elder Protection Workgroup.
In 2012, she received the Marge Ling
Leadership Award, which seeks to not only acknowledge a member of the Advisory
Council who displays the leadership, commitment, and passion for senior issues,
but also motivates fellow members of the Advisory Council to model and support
healthy, active aging."
Further, "Ms. Eckels' ability to think creatively, identify issues, and solve
problems is an asset to the AAA and the community. She is passionate about the
AAA, seniors and people with disabilities in Sonoma County, and has contributed
to expanding awareness of senior issues by both increasing the number and
quality of outreach activities for the AAA.
Her founding of the Elder Protection
Workgroup and leadership in efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse and
neglect through speaking engagements and special projects in honor of World
Elder Abuse Awareness Day show her commitment to improving the lives of those in
As Chair of the Transportation and Mobility Committee, Ms. Eckels
has laid the groundwork for a collaborative, community-based approach to
improving transportation programs and systems throughout the County."
Resources and Useful Links
If you are interested in finding out more about volunteer opportunities, CDA is pleased to provide the following off-site resources to connect volunteers with governmental and nongovernmental civic engagement programs.
- CDA Supported Volunteer Programs:
- Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for volunteer opportunities. For contact information Click here.
- Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). The State Health Insurance Assistance Program offers one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families. For information about how to become a volunteer counselor Click here.
- The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman is currently recruiting volunteers to advocate for seniors and persons with disabilities that reside in long-term care facilities in California. To find out more about becoming a volunteer Long-Term Care Ombudsman representative, contact the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in your area Click here.
- California Volunteers is the state office that manages programs and initiatives aimed at increasing the number of Californians engaged in service and volunteering. For volunteer information Click here.
- Corporation for National and Community Service (CNS). The Corporation is the nation's largest grant maker supporting service and volunteering. Through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, the Corporation provides volunteer opportunities for people of all ages and interests. For volunteer information Click here.
- Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA). The MOWAA represents local, community-based Senior Nutrition Programs in all 50 U.S. States. For volunteer information Click here.
- Volunteer Match is a national nonprofit that helps visitors find volunteer opportunities by location, interest area, and/or keyword. For volunteer information Click here.
Updated July 27, 2018