Elderly give back to community | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Elderly give back to community

Jill Darby

Senior citizens throughout the United States are proving it’s never too late to make a difference.

South Lake Tahoe’s elderly population has a chance to join a half million older Americans, who are working under the National Senior Service Corps as foster grandparents, senior companions and in retired senior volunteer programs.

“It’s an opportunity to be involved in the community, to have purposeful and meaningful work and at the same time reduce the financial hardship for some low-income seniors,” said Ruth Green of the Area Agency on Aging. “The average age of foster grandparents and senior companions is 70 years old.”

Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs were introduced more than 25 years ago. Low-income adults, 60 years of age and older, can earn up to $200 a month tax-free by working 15 to 20 hours a week in area schools or assisting elderly or disabled adults.

Funding through the California Department of Aging has allowed the programs to expand to several counties throughout the state. This is the first year South Lake Tahoe is included in programming.

A brief orientation is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the South Tahoe Senior Center. Complimentary lunch will be served to those 60 years and older.

“There will be a short video presentation and a brief description of the programs,” Green said. “It’s basically just recruitment to make people aware that this is an opportunity.”

The Senior Companion Program matches senior volunteers with elderly or disabled adults. The Foster Grandparent Program places senior volunteers in schools.

“The volunteer works in the classroom with a small group of children,” Green said. “The goal is to target children who need some special attention from a senior volunteer. Those are the children who benefit from that intergenerational exchange.”

Placerville resident Editha Scholz, 80, just completed her first year as a foster grandparent at Schnell Elementary School.

“I am retired now but I use to be a teacher in Germany after the war,” Scholz said. “And I had been a Red Cross nurse in German military hospitals.”

Scholz, who came to the United States in 1959, said she comes from a serving family.

“My father was in the Red Cross and he always took care of people,” she said. “My mother took care of an older couple who lived next door to us. In my family, it was always about serving others. I think you have to have that in you or volunteering doesn’t work out.”

A 12-year resident of Placerville, Scholz said her experience at Schnell was rewarding.

“I had a very, very good experience at the school,” said Scholz, who worked with students on hand coordination skills, among other things. “My old school experiences in Germany came snapping right back. I’ll continue with this work. I’m going to go back to the school after vacation. It makes me very happy.”

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