When the legislature convenes in January, at the top of their list will be the budget. Whether our budgets woes are viewed as a spending problem or a revenue problem, one thing is certain: funding for senior volunteer programs must be spared.
“In the last budget, three senior volunteer programs were on the brink of extinction,” said AARP New Hampshire Associate State Director for Advocacy Doug McNutt. “This is really a case of being penny wise and pound foolish. Through the work of AARP and others, we were able to save these programs from the chopping block. But the danger still lingers.”
A $230,000 investment by the state of New Hampshire brings in over $1.7 million in federal dollars which is used to operate Retired Senior Volunteer Programs (RSVP), Foster Grandparents, and Senior Companions. These three programs have been serving the communities of New Hampshire for over 35 years, bringing more than 645,000 hours of service to all corners of the Granite State.
With New Hampshire’s aging population, senior volunteer programs provide needed services that allow people to stay in their homes and communities as they age. These services run the gamut from driving people to doctors’ appointments to providing light housekeeping and meals to working in after-school programs.
“If not provided by volunteers, many of these services would either disappear or require funding from local New Hampshire communities, whose budgets are already stretched thin,” added McNutt. “Oftentimes, these volunteer-run services are the only thing keeping our citizens living independently, in their homes and communities.”
To educate legislators, community leaders, government officials and others on the benefits of these programs to New Hampshire, AARP – in collaboration with RSVP, Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions – held a half-day session in Concord. The program, titled Service is Part of the Solution, highlighted how New Hampshire residents, age 55 and older, are taking ownership of today’s challenges and making themselves part of the solution as they lead the way for future volunteers.
Key presenters included Thomas Endres of the National Council on Aging who shared findings from a recently-completed study on the value of senior volunteers in capacity-building roles and Steve Norton of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies who spotlighted current demographic trends and the role volunteerism plays in providing needed services for communities.
“Reforming our long-term care system in order to keep people living in their homes and communities as they age is AARP’s top legislative priority,” concluded McNutt. “Volunteers play a vital role in this endeavor. We have to remember that they ARE part of the solution.”
To get involved in AARP’s long-term care campaign, contact Doug McNutt or Steve Griffin.