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Tuesday
Oct012019

Driving Miss Daisy ... and Mr. Rose ... and Mrs Tulip

 

Over the past month or two, I have been volunteering as a driver for an organization that provides rides for people who cannot drive, usually a couple times a week. Mostly elderly, often with serious health or mobility issues, I pick them up in my car at their homes and drive them to clinics, hairstylists, grocery stores, or other places they might need to go. And drive them back home.

While I know they appreciate the ride, I believe they enjoy the conversation and company just as much. I hear about their aches and pains, of course, but also about their families, their careers, and their opinions about a lot of things. One lady was very happy with the street we took, comparing to being driven through a national park (this was in suburban Minneapolis.) Another slyly asked if the service would take her to a casino. And yet another firmly admonished me to "stay the hell away from" her while grocery shopping since she didn't need advice on what to buy. Believe me, I honored her request.

My other volunteer work has lately been with the ForeverWell program at a nearby YMCA, helping do physical health assessments of seniors and co-leading hikes in the area. Ages range from mid 70s to upper 80s. Again, socialization is a huge motivator for these folks to be a part of the program.

I worry about the amount of isolation and loneliness in our country. Remaining independent and staying in one's home instead of an assisted living facility is seen as the greatest good. Yet, I wonder if it is? How much depression and fragility and even dementia is caused by conditions where there is little to do and few others with whom to converse? I don't think isolation and loneliness does not impact the elderly alone - as an educator, I sensed a lack of connection in kids and young adults as well.

Oh, just so you know, my volunteer efforts are by no means altruistic. Since I am no longer working a 40 hour week, I need opportunities to interact with other human beings as well. After 40+ years in the "giving" field of education, it feels good at the end of the day knowing one can still give to others and have not just spent a day sucking up oxygen that could have been put to better use. One gets as much or more as one gives in volunteer efforts where you can actually see the people your efforts benefit.

Nice to have something to do that keeps me off the streets and out of the bars. 

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Reader Comments (3)

Those sound great. I know I’d love it if my aging father was getting to interact with volunteers such as yourself. He may move up here within a few months so I’ll see if I can find some things like that to connect him with. Thanks for continuing to be awesome!

October 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Good to hear about your volunteer work. As I approach retirement, I have been thinking about volunteer work.
I will definitely need something to do outside of the house.
Any wisdom to pass along about retirement? I’m worried about it.
Thanks

October 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

Thanks, Jim. One of the reasons I do this is because I can't do it for my own mom who lives too far away. Good luck with your dad!

Doug

Hi Joy,

I am probably not the best person to ask about retirement advice. I don't always think I am managing it well myself. The joy of not having a schedule or not having to go to work lasted about 10 days for me. I had lots of travel scheduled, but not much to do between trips
.
I would say make sure you have volunteer jobs, service projects (I am with Rotary), and a good fitness plan at a local YMCA. You need things to do and contact with others!

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Doug

October 2, 2019 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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