Loni listened empathetically while Mary shared her feelings of grief over recently losing her husband. The two women, both in their late sixties, had been meeting regularly since shortly after Loni had started her position as a volunteer counselor with Peninsula Family Services. Listening to her peers share personal stories about themselves gave her a new appreciation for her own life’s blessings. She looked forward to her ongoing talks with Mary each week, and seeing her progress as she navigated the grieving process.
Becoming an integral part of someone’s emotional journey was both humbling and inspiring. For the first time since retiring as a college professor in the Bay Area, Loni was fulfilled by her work: she felt proud to be able to offer comfort and guidance to her clients by lending an empathetic ear and some compassionate encouragement. There are many older adults in the San Francisco Peninsula looking for the chance to fill their days by doing something valuable for their community or their peers. And, happily, there are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities ready for them to explore.
Volunteer Opportunities for Older Adults in the Peninsula
Not only does the Peninsula boast a range of available volunteer roles, they also feature many positions that specifically cater toward older adults. For example, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) provides an in-depth selection of local volunteer jobs aimed at older adults who want to work with people similar to their age.
If your aging loved one is based in the Peninsula, this is a great place to search for volunteer positions that will connect them with other older adults: some of the roles include peer counseling, administration, and delivering hot meals. And the website Peninsula Volunteers is another useful place to check if your loved one is looking for a more diverse range of options, like working with animals or tutoring children. No matter what their interests are, exploring the Peninsula’s local volunteer options can help them begin the new year with a positive step forward, into their community.
The Peninsula Humane Society
If your aging loved one has a passion for animals, there’s a good chance that volunteering at the local Humane Society will bring them much joy. Research has shown that spending time with animals can relieve depression and anxiety—even in those who’ve suffered severe trauma. Having animal friends nearby can also help to meet older adults’ needs for companionship, love, and connection, especially if they are unable to care for a pet in their own home. And while the Humane Society in San Mateo does have paid employees, they rely heavily on volunteers to run its numerous services.
There are a wide variety of positions, including manning the phones, assisting staff members with tasks, and caring for the animals. The nonprofit organization offers flexibility in scheduling, enabling volunteers to work as little as a few hours per week, or as many as three full days. Most people choose to volunteer here because they find caring for animals in need, and helping them find good homes, deeply rewarding.
To be eligible for one of the Humane Society’s popular volunteer positions, your loved one must be able to commit to 2 to 3 hours per week for a full year. They’ll also need to fill out an application form, and attend an orientation. Spots can fill up, so it’s best to book ahead of time. This meeting will familiarize your aging loved one with the Humane Society building, people, and how things are run. Your loved one will also need to invest $30 for a volunteer T-shirt, badge, and other goodies.
- Address: 1450 Rollins Road, Burlingame, CA 94010
- Phone: (650) 340-7022
- Email: lotoole@PHS-SPCA.org
Peer Counseling with Peninsula Family Service
There are no prerequisites for this important position, aside from a desire to help those over 50 years old in San Mateo. The Peninsula Family Service Senior Peer Counseling program is looking for volunteers to fill the position of counselor to older adults. It begins with six weeks of training sessions, three hours each, after which volunteers must commit to support meetings every second week, and additional trainings four times a year.
Just as important is that your loved one be a good listener and able to offer compassion and empathy to people their own age on an ongoing basis. Any past experience in psychology, mentoring, or cultivating meaningful relationships can be helpful. To make it maximally convenient, your loved one will be assigned clients who live in close proximity to each other and to the driver’s own home. Because of the training investment, volunteers must commit to one year of volunteering to be eligible for the position. However, the actual number of hours can be quite flexible—so even if your loved one only wants to work a few hours each week, that’s fine. They can fill out an application form here to get started.
This is also an example of a volunteer position that’s offered through RSVP. If your loved one wants to proceed with the application process through their site, they can fill out an online form stating the position they’re interested in. Your loved one will then receive a volunteer application to fill out by hand, to be returned by mail, or submitted in person at their office (RSVP does not accept application forms by email). This position offers plenty of opportunity for personal growth from the trainings, as well as from real-world experience counseling people.
Peninsula Family Service
- Address: 24 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401
- Phone: (650) 403-4300
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
- Address: 1720 El Camino Real, Suite 10, Burlingame, CA 94010
- Phone: (650) 696-7661
- Email: Contact form
Meals on Wheels
Run by Peninsula Volunteers, Meals on Wheels delivers between 1,300 and 1,700 hot meals each week to community members in the local area. Recipients of the meals are often homebound or disabled older adults unable to leave the house. The meals are subsidized for some, while others donate around 5 dollars per meal—even if someone can’t pay, they are never turned away.
Currently, Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteer drivers to deliver meals throughout San Mateo County. To apply for this position, your loved one will need a valid driver’s license, in addition to their own vehicle and gasoline. They must also have proof of insurance, and be open to having a background check. Working hours for drivers are between 10 am and 1 pm weekdays, delivering meals to anywhere between 10 and 15 people, with a starting point of either Menlo Park or San Bruno.
All volunteers are asked for a minimum commitment of 6 months. If your aging loved would like to pursue this position, they’ll need to fill out the application form, the volunteer agreement form, and bring both to the interview. This would be a rewarding position for anyone who enjoys driving around town, likes connecting with new people every day, and is looking for a meaningful way to spend their weekdays.
- Address: 800 Middle Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025
- Phone: (650) 323-2022
- Email: Driver volunteering (contact Victoria Cormack) email@example.com
- Email: Volunteer application (contact Febbie Gonzales) firstname.lastname@example.org
With so many interesting volunteer opportunities available in the San Francisco Peninsula, you can have fun finding one that resonates deeply with your aging loved one. There are plenty of positions to explore, including ones that involve connecting with other older adults—and these roles can be a nice way for your loved one to make new friendships and meet inspiring people. Having a regular volunteer position can also give them a renewed sense of purpose and something to look forward to getting out of bed for.
And it can be helpful to remember that it may take some time before your loved one finds a volunteer position that they truly click with, so don’t feel frustrated if it takes a while before something really speaks to their heart. Once they find a position that’s a good fit, the experience will feel exciting and challenging in the best sort of way. If you have some free time, you might consider joining your loved one in volunteering: this can strengthen your relationship, and ensure both your new years start off with plenty of gratitude and giving back.
If you’re unsure how to best support your aging loved one, Institute on Aging offers a range of programs, services, and online resources. Connect with us today to learn more.