Senior Companions offer one-on-one services to those who have difficulty completing everyday tasks. They can assist with:
- grocery shopping and paying bills
- transportation to medical appointments, and
- alerting doctors and family members to potential health problems.
Senior Companions can also provide short periods of relief to primary caregivers. Because of this program, thousands of residents can live with dignity in their own homes.
The program is open to healthy people age 55 and older with limited incomes. There's also a background check and a telephone interview. You receive pre-services and in-service training on topics including:
- Alzheimer's disease
- diabetes, and
- issues related to mental health.
Senior Companions serve 20 hours a week.
For their service, Senior Companions receive a $2.65 an hour (tax free) reimbursement for:
- annual physical examinations
- meals, and
- accident and liability insurance during service.
Volunteers contribute 13 million hours of service each year to their frail older clients. The value of this service is $151 million. That represents almost a five-fold return on the federal dollars invested in the program.
Partners and operations
Local nonprofits and public agencies receive grants to sponsor and operate Senior Companion projects. Community groups that address the health needs of older persons work with local program projects to place volunteers.
These local partners include hospitals, Area Agencies on Aging, and home health groups. They are called volunteer stations. The stations' professional staffs identify people who need help. They work with program projects to place them with Senior Companions.Senior Corps
Special projects are funded by the Corporation for National Community Service. They're also sponsored by the Elderly Commission. The Senior Companion program is part of Senior Corps. This network of national service programs gives older Americans the chance to apply their life experiences to community needs.
The program was incorporated by Title II of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act (DVSA). It was designed by that Act, along with the Foster Grandparent Program and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. It was one of the Older American Volunteer Programs (OAVP) administered by the national volunteer agency, ACTION.1974
ACTION funded 18 model Senior Companion projects.1984
The program was authorized by amendments to the Domestic Volunteer Service Act to serve homebound, frail older people.
Older American Volunteer Programs were re-authorized as the National Senior Volunteer Corps by the National and Community Trust Act.Current
Now known as the National Senior Service Corps, the program is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
When asked why she commits so much of her time to helpting others, Senior Companion Petra Santos replies, "Because there are people who need me."
"Being volunteers, we can help the needy people and at the same time, we can use our leisure time constructively, learn something new, make more friends, and get satisfaction. We are very happy about it." — Station Supervisor, David Ko
"With our own heart we do that work, not because of money but because of our community's needs, and we feel helpful to serve them." — Senior Companion, Happy H. Nguyen
"It made me feel so good. Before volunteering, I was shy and nervous. I really didn't think I was going to last that long (as a volunteer). To be a real volunteer you have to have patience, perseverance, compassion, and a sense of humor." — Senior Companion, Jack Peckham
"When I come here to volunteer I come with an attitude of love, smiles, and jokes because that's the type of person I am. I like to be happy." — Senior Companion, Eleanor Armstrong
All Senior Companion volunteers go through life following the words of Booker T. Washington, "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."