Published September 15, 2009
Volume 17, Number 9

Senior Support Program Provides Wide Array of Services, Volunteer Opportunities

If there is ever a volunteer opportunity that brings rapid rewards, it has to be working with the clients of Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley (SSPTV). This nonprofit agency, based in the Pleasanton Senior Center on Sunol Blvd., is committed to helping seniors live “independently with a better quality of life as long as possible.”

Established in 1981 as a friendly visitor program, SSPTV has expanded its reach to address a broad spectrum of need within the aging population, from nutrition education and health screening to companionship and caregiver support. Its client base, seniors over age 60 in the cities of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, and Sunol, receives services from a staff of case managers and geriatric specialists, along with a roster of more than 125 volunteers.  

“Our volunteers are the key to making everything work for seniors. They visit, take them shopping or to the movies, do fun social things,” says Executive Director Marlene Petersen. Asked what kind of volunteer is most helpful, Petersen has a ready reply: “A good people-person. They need to be companionable and willing listeners.” Many volunteers have started as a telephone friend, calling to check in periodically, and then begin to do more as the relationship progresses. Some take on projects like yard work or home repair; others prepare extra portions of food when they are cooking at home so they can bring the seniors nutritious, tasty meals. Still others undergo training to be an exercise coach or lead a nutrition education class. “Everyone is different and has different needs, so we work hard to make an appropriate match,” Petersen comments. 

The interaction can have wide-reaching, even life-changing results. Thanks to the volunteers’ attention, seniors often start eating better and make more effort to get involved in the wider community. Often when seniors have been sick, they isolate themselves from friends or family, Petersen explains. An aging couple might pull back and avoid having visitors because they don’t want anyone to see that their house is in need of repair. “They’re afraid others will see the disarray and want to take them out of the home,” Petersen notes. “Our rule is to take away that threat. We want to make it so they can stay independent in their own homes.”

In addition to helping clients and their families navigate through the medley of government services available, the agency has also pioneered a “Partners in Safety” program that takes a proactive approach to limit the severity of a crisis. For example, when the Fire Department gets a call for help from a senior who has fallen, it can notify SSPTV. “We go out, look at the home, and help make modifications—installing grab bars in the bathroom, putting tape on a step to make it more visible, removing a slippery area rug.”

The demand for volunteers is high. For more information about how to participate, or about the services offered, visit www.ssptv.org or call (925) 931-5379. 


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