Having a Good Senior Moment: Older Volunteers Help Frail Elderly and Disabled in Northwest Iowa

During 1998 and 1999, the Northwest Iowa Retired & Senior Volunteer Program in Estherville, Iowa, expanded its program to include people with serious disabilities.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program, Faith in Action®, Generation 2 and Generation 3 national program.

The Project: The program provides volunteer opportunities for people who are 55 and older. However, it had been unable to keep up with the large number of requests it received from public agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals in need of assistance. The program served five counties in Northwest Iowa, where the largest community had a population of just 11,000 people, and transportation was a major problem.

Key Results

  • Program staff recruited 114 new volunteers who gave 4,178 hours of services to 150 individuals needing assistance. The focus of the program was on medical transportation, home-delivered meals, companionship, friendly visiting and assisting people with bill paying and paperwork. Most of the care recipients were frail elderly. The project also served a number of adults with mental disabilities as well as a few children with physical disabilities.

A 28-year-old woman who was shot in the head by a boyfriend nine years ago recently moved back home to Iowa to live with her mother. After her injury, she had to relearn how to do everything. The doctors told her that she would never be able to read or write again. She has learned to read but still has serious learning problems. A Faith in Action volunteer is working with her and is also providing medical transportation for her as needed.