Wednesday, August 24, 2011

RSVP, Please

Today's post is by Betty Ruth, President of the National Association of Retired Senior Volunteer Program Directors (NARSVPD):

In the two weeks after floods ravaged the Midwest this past June, Larry Lyngstad (above photo, left) of Pierre, South Dakota, and his fellow volunteers with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) donated 1600 hours sand bagging and providing other emergency services to neighbors in need.  Lyngstad was quoted in the Pierre Capital Journal as saying, “These kinds of programs are important, not only for the people being served by the volunteers, but also those that provide the services. It is a win-win situation.”

Lyngstad's feeling is in line with studies from Johns Hopkins University and Washington University in St. Louis, where research has indicated the positive effects of senior volunteerism--on volunteers.  The Washington University research indicates that volunteer tutors over age 55 improved their physical and mental health while increasing physical activity and social connectedness.  Hopkins researchers also found increased physical activity among volunteer tutors older than 65--and verified that the effects were still apparent three years later.

Unfortunately, Congress has recently cut RSVP's funding by 20 percent--and for some programs, that cut has proved fatal.  With inadequate funding today and uncertain funding for the future, some programs are being forced to shut their doors.  For those who are inspired, a call or note to your senators and representatives can be a chance to urge full funding for RSVP and remind them of folks like Larry Lyngstad, one of more than 400,000 senior volunteers making this a better country for their children and grandchildren, and ours.

A list of RSVP programs can be found at  A call to the nearest program--assuming the phone lines are still operational--will reveals the program's most pressing volunteer needs.

Photo Credit:  Emily Wickstrom, Pierre Capital Journal

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