Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Institute of Gerontology visited by noted French expert

By Carilyne Vance
Senior Volunteers with the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences’ Institute of Gerontology (IOG) sat down with noted French aging expert Dr. Jean-Philippe Viriot-Durandal, professor of Sociology at the University of Lorraine, to discuss the parameters of the Senior Companion Program and why it has enjoyed such great success.  Dr. Viriot-Durandal, a former Fulbright Scholar, United States Senate Congressional Fellow and Co-founder of the International Network of Research on Age came to University of the District of Columbia to determine the reason for the programs’ success and to see what elements of it could be reproduced in Europe. 

  • Serving disabled, frail or terminally ill senior adult residents of the District “who need extra assistance to live independently in their homes and communities,” volunteering with the program, according to volunteer Ryland Stewart, is “bigger than a volunteer opportunity.” 
  • Ms. Miley Bell, who has been a volunteer with the program for the last seven years, spoke of how “it brings in a human element to giving back.”   
  • Ciara Faulk, another program volunteer, spoke to how client extended family members value the enrichment that the volunteers bring to their loved ones lives. Whether through the simple preparation of meals, taking clients out for brief excursions or just engaging them in conversation, Senior Companion Program volunteers make their clients’ lives better.

The group interview delved into the mechanics of the program; how clients are enrolled, how volunteers are recruited and clients/volunteers are matched, to determine why the program has been so successful.  Even though volunteers receive a small stipend, their participation in the program “is not about the money.” The success of the program is credited to the familial relationship of the UDC volunteer family. Grounded in strong shared faith, while not a faith-based program, “the program connects people with people to reach hearts.”  

In addition to the Senior Companion Program, the Institute of Gerontology also offers monthly in-service programs; monthly events of varying topics - legal, relationship, home-care, health-care, etc., that volunteers attend on behalf of their clients and take the information back to them. The IOG then refers the client to the appropriate entities that can assist them with their issues.  The IOG further aids Senior District residents with a Senior Tuition Program, Respite Aide Program and the Bodywise Health and Fitness Program. 

For more information on the Institute of Gerontology, please visit www.udc.edu/causes or contact Ms. Claudia John, at claudia.john@udc.edu or on (202) 274-6659.

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