Healthy Aging

Program Honors and Trains Seniors Who Promote Healthy Communities

enior volunteers often play a central role in promoting healthy aging and building healthy communities. Yet, their volunteer efforts and their potential for expanded contributions frequently go unrecognized.

Take 82-year-old Herman Olave who volunteers at Harvest Bag, a nonprofit organization entirely run by volunteer staff, many of whom - like Herman - are senior citizens. Harvest Bag distributes more than 2,000 bags of groceries a month to needy San Luis Obispo County residents.

“Older Californians are important assets to their communities,” said Pauline Daniels, TCWF program director. “It makes sense to invest in this resource, especially considering that people ages 65 and older represent the fastest growing segment of the state’s population.”

TCWF provided a two-year, $190,000 grant to UC Berkeley, School of Public Health, to fund a program to identify, honor and provide training and technical assistance to a group of California senior leaders who promote healthy aging and community building in underserved communities.

“Active engagement in life is a major contributor to healthy aging,” said Dr. Meredith Minkler, professor of public health at UC Berkeley and founding director of the UC Center on Aging. “This project honors seniors who exemplify healthy aging through their sustained outstanding volunteer contributions to community-service organizations.

Nominations for the California Senior Leaders honor were solicited from local health departments, community-based organizations, senior centers and other service organizations throughout the state.

A ceremony to recognize 35 honorees selected as California Senior Leaders was held as part of a two-day retreat. This gathering launched the involvement of the leaders in the skill development and technical assistance aspects of the two-year project.

“The intergenerational component provides the Senior Leaders with follow-up technical assistance on their projects from our [School of Public Health] graduate students in areas like media advocacy and fund development,” Minkler said. “But the truth is our students learn from the seniors too. It is a true service-learning project.”

Some of the Senior Leaders’ projects are dedicated to preventing substance abuse and violence, providing healthy alternatives for youth at risk, or like honoree Herman Olave, ending hunger among low-income residents.

“Our fundraising chairman has been working closely with the UC Berkeley students for the $9,000 to $10,000 a month we need for operating expenses,” Olave said. “This year we’ve received community block grants that we’ve never gotten before. The California Senior Leaders program has sure been a big help to us.”

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Summer 2003

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Staff Profile

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Grants Listing

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