“Everybody at this time in their lives should know emotionally and spiritually what it is that fills their well…” Surfing For Life , Shay Bintliff, MD and lifelong surfer.
Roy Earnest the co-producer of this 1999 documentary recently talked at AHWGO about such opportunities through Civic Engagement. He has had a long career in gerontological social work and is currently program officer for CNCS (Corporation for National & Community Services) in Northern California. CNCS is a government agency that funds volunteer programs such as Americorp, Senior Companions, Foster Grandparents and Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). Similar to Roy’s documentary this agency was set up at a time when nobody was talking about the ‘aging tsunami’ of baby boomers, positive aging or encore careers. Social conventions about what you should do and how you should act in older age where much more set than today. What has changed in the field of senior volunteerism since then is that the focus has broadened. It is not just anymore about serving the needs of seniors but actively engaging older adults who can and want to contribute their often sophisticated skill set in community services. This is not light hearted volunteerism anymore but a contribution that is desperately needed because of shrinking funds paralleled by an increase in need for services. While there will be a record number of healthy older adults, there will also be a record number of frail and chronically ill older adults. This development has recently prompted the founding of the Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative. Its goal is to teach nonprofits a new way to view volunteers, as more permanent members of their organization who should be professionally recruited, trained and nurtured.
I am not sure how to call this anymore – it is still volunteer work but it seems to have become so essential to the functioning of society that it is like a civic service that might become a more standard part of each of our lives in a community. Hopefully it will be a win-win, filling people’s wells through many forms of civic engagement.