Volunteer work beneficial to older adults lending a hand
By Stephanie Hacke
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Bill Davis wanted to avoid sitting alone in his Clairton home after his wife, Helen, of 47 years, died in 2010.
So he began to volunteer at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Jefferson Hills as a lobby escort, guest shop clerk and medical building office assistant.
“It's the best non-paid job you can have,” said Davis, 67.”It's wonderful. I enjoy it all.”
This holiday season, the South Hills Record is highlighting various organizations to inform readers of needs in their communities.
A 2007 report by Corporation for National and Community service, citing numerous studies, states that volunteering leads to better health, particularly in older adults who will see both mental and physical benefits.
Pennsylvania experienced a 2 percent increase in volunteering among residents ages 65 or older and a 29 percent increase in those ages 85 or older from 2000 to 2010, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
More specifically, 42 percent of the 64,233 residents residing in Baldwin Borough, Baldwin Township, Brentwood, Jefferson Hills, Pleasant Hills and Whitehall are 50 years old or older and 20 percent are at least 65 years old.
Volunteers in the South Hills, young and old alike, give their time throughout the year to help senior citizens. They spend their time delivering food, calling bingo, preparing taxes and helping people in need at a local hospital or senior home. Likewise, many of the volunteers at South Hills organizations and businesses are senior citizens, looking to spend their time helping others, leaders said.
There are 311 active volunteers at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Jefferson Hills, said Janet O'Brien, specialist in volunteer services. The majority are retirees, with 58 percent of the volunteers between the ages of 60 and 91 years old, O'Brien said. One volunteer has been at the hospital for 39 years.
The volunteers work in every department at the hospital, where the average patient is a 67-year-old, O'Brien said.
Dressed in coral or red jackets — the teens in polo shirts — volunteers can be found behind the counter in the gift shop, escorting patients in the lobby or at the information desk, giving out information.
“They just bring a lot of enthusiasm,” O'Brien said. “There's just a general caring about them.”
The volunteers also help lighten the load of the hospital staff, as well as cheering up patients and families, O'Brien said.
Davis, who said he didn't know what to do with himself alone at home without his wife, has a found a new purpose volunteering at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. No matter what struggle he is going through, being with others and knowing he's helping people gets him through.
“I cope better here than I do at home,” he said. “It helps me out a lot. I'm helping them as much as they're helping me.”
Tillie Metzger, the go-to volunteer at Leland Community Center's LifeSpan program, also benefits from her charity work, she said.
“That's the way I was brought up. You do something for other people and you forget about yourself,” she said. “I enjoy my life.”
The 88-year-old Carrick resident will do anything that is needed: cooking, cleaning, calling bingo and even taking care of those who get sick.
“I have a good feeling inside of me for that,” Metzger said of her volunteer work. “Sometimes people need somebody and they don't have anybody to be there for them and I can be there.”
LifeSpan holds programs — mostly social activities ranging from bingo to card games to exercise classes — every Monday to Friday at Leland Community Center in Baldwin Borough from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for anyone 60 years and older, with an average turnout of between 30 to 50 people. A small group of attendees also helps volunteer at the program.
“It's wonderful for them. It gives them a sense of purpose,” said Amelia Greenaway, site coordinator. “One guy jumps into the kitchen and does the dishes everyday, and the ladies stand around and watch him.”
The roughly 150 volunteers at the Brentwood Meals on Wheels, which serves nearly 50 people a day, are what keep the program going, said Carol Succop, 73, supervisor each Wednesday.
Everyone, except the cook, is a volunteer at the program.
Most of the recipients are senior citizens, as are many of the volunteers, Succop said.
The volunteers not only deliver meals, but they also check-in on the recipients to ensure their health is OK.
“Some of them, it might be the only person they see all day,” said Succop, of Baldwin Borough, who also volunteers at Paramount Senior Living on Knoedler Drive to serve lunches.
Girl Scouts caroling, people giving blankets or members of Baldwin Independent Fire Company No. 1 visiting for the holidays all brighten the faces of the nearly 50 senior citizens living at Oakleaf Person Care Home in Baldwin Borough, said activities director Connie Meiers.
Volunteers also come by year round, on a weekly basis, to visit the residents and say prayers with them.
“They're just so happy and excited when they see people come,” Meiers said.
Seniors citizens are the ones helping people of all ages at Baldwin Borough Public Library's AARP Tax Aid Services — a 10-week program that is held from February to April each year, said adult services librarian Nancy Musser.
A local senior citizen also helps the library with “Books on Wheels,” where he carts orders from the library to the Baldwin Health Center so that residents there can have library service without leaving the center, Musser said.
• Baldwin Borough Public Library: 412-885-2255; www.baldwinborolibrary.org
• Brentwood Public Library: 412-882-5694; www.brentwoodpubliclibrary.org
• Brentwood Library Program Extension of LifeSpan: 412-343-6050; www.lifespanpa.org/ community.cfm
• Brentwood Meals on Wheels: 412-881-6688; www.mowaa.org
• Jefferson Hills Public Library: 412-655-7741; www.jeffersonhillslibrary.org
Those interested in volunteering can contact the hospital's volunteer services at 412-469-5885 or email volunteers@jefferson regional.com
• Leland Senior Resource Center of LifeSpan: 412-655-1779; www.lifespanpa.org/community.cfm
• Pleasant Hills Public Library: 412-655-2424; www.pleasanthillslibrary.org
• Whitehall Public Library: 412-882-6622; www.whitehallpubliclibrary.org
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-338-5818 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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