So you’ve decided you want to do something to help older people in your community, but you’re not sure where to start. Here are five ways to get the ball rolling.
There are several senior-focused nonprofit organizations in San Diego that are always in need of volunteers.
Most senior centers in San Diego County have limited staff and depend on volunteers to serve meals, teach classes, and lead activities. You can find a senior center in your area by searching our interactive map. Call and ask about volunteer opportunities that might be a fit for you. (Most senior centers are currently closed to in-person activities due to COVID, but there are still safe, socially-distanced and virtual opportunities to help out.)
You can also apply with Serving Seniors, which will match your special skills and interests with the right volunteer opportunity in one of their health and wellness programs. Many are run out of the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center, which may be convenient if you live or work downtown.
If you can afford to take a long lunch break a few times a month, apply to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels and choose a route that’s close to your home or business. Or sign up for a group delivery route that you can share with friends or co-workers.
Jewish Family Service offers a variety of programs that allow volunteers to serve older adults. Are you good with your hands? Apply to be a Fix-It volunteer and do home repairs. Maybe you work irregular hours and have free time during the day? Sign up as a volunteer driver to provide transportation to seniors who are no longer able to drive themselves.
Adopt a Neighborhood Senior
Seniors without family close by, often referred to as “senior orphans” or “elder orphans” may suffer from social isolation or lack access to transportation, healthcare, and other vital services. Senior orphans have no one to turn to in times of crisis. If you have an elderly neighbor, one of the most important things you can do is just be their friend. Check in on them once a week and take the time to stop and chat. If you are able, offer to drive them to appointments or pick up groceries from time to time. Be the person in their life that they can count on when they need a hand.
Offer Pro-Bono Services
If you are a professional service provider, consider devoting a percentage of your time to helping seniors on a pro-bono basis. Are you a financial advisor? CPA or tax preparer? Maybe you teach fitness or computer classes? Offer free or deeply discounted rates to seniors age 65 and over. Or talk to your local library or senior center about setting up a program where you can provide services once a month either in-person or virtually.
Donate to Local Nonprofits That Operate Programs for Seniors
If you work full time and have caregiving responsibilities, no one will blame you if you don’t have the bandwidth to volunteer. Instead, give what you can to worthy organizations that run programs for older adults. Serving Seniors, Jewish Family Service, Meals on Wheels, San Diego Oasis, ElderHelp of San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank are all organizations that do important work and will put your donations to good use.
Create a Fund or Leave a Legacy
If you want to make a lasting impact in the community, give to the San Diego Seniors Community Foundation to help fund programs and services for seniors across San Diego County. By setting up a donor-advised fund, you will have a say in which organizations your money supports, and you can spread out your contributions over time as part of a planned giving program. Or put SDSCF in your will and create an enduring philanthropic legacy in support of seniors in our region.