COLLEGE PARK – While some seniors are focusing on staying connected to their homes, some organizations are concerned about keeping them connected to their community.
Partners in Care, a Maryland volunteer organization, is one of them.
“We’re firm believers that our community tends to overlook skills of people after they’re retired,” said Barbara Huston, Partners in Care co-founder and president and CEO of the organization.
The model for Partners in Care, founded in 1993, is for seniors to join in their 50s and “bank hours” by volunteering their time to drive older members to a doctor’s appointment, help them with yard work or participate in other programs like making emergency kits of supplies in case of a power outage or other crisis.
If and when, later in life, these volunteers can no longer drive or endure long periods of physical activity, new volunteers come in to help them.
Constance Johnson, 87, of Severna Park was one of these volunteers who acted as a chauffeur for seven or eight years until she was told she could no longer drive.
Now, Partners in Care sends a volunteer to her house occasionally for home maintenance projects, like fixing a drain spout or raking leaves.
“They take a personal interest in you,” Johnson said.
Vi Cosgrove, 81, of Glen Burnie, agrees.
“I started out as what they call a giver; now I’m a receiver,” she said of her 10 to 12 years with the group. “It’s absolutely the best organization I’ve ever dealt with in my life.”
The organization can also act as a middleman when a member needs to make his or her home more accessible.
“If I didn’t have Partners in Care, I certainly couldn’t keep the house up,” Cosgrove said. “I wouldn’t know who to get as a contractor. When I call Partners in Care, I know I can trust them to come into the house, do the work and not overcharge me.”
More than 4,000 people have come through Partners in Care, with 2,400 members currently, Huston said.
“We think of ourselves as social entrepreneurs; we generate social capital,” she said.