Retirement can be a scary thing, especially for those who are not used to all that free time. That is the harsh reality for many people in our community who are 55 and older. Now, some local organizations want to prove seniors are not a drag on society once they turn their suits and work boots in for sneakers and jeans.
"It's a year round commitment,” volunteer manager with RSVP Ruth McCrea said. “Volunteers are needed 12 months a year."
Recruiting seniors for volunteer positions, or RSVP, has been getting senior citizens more involved in mesa county for 40 years now. Established in 1973, this non profit has grown from 180 seniors to 540 volunteers with 3 full time and 2 part time staff members.
"It's a place where people can go who are looking to do something in the community but really don't know or are new to the community and don't know the community or they don't know what's available," executive director of RSVP Jean Brewer said.
When recruiting new volunteers, Brewer says word of mouth works best. But it is McCrea who finds the seniors something they will enjoy spending their free time doing.
"You talk to them about what's available and you just watch for that little spark to come on and you find a place for them," she said.
But McCrea says older folks tend to have a bad reputation despite all their work in our community.
"People think oh they're a drain on society. They are just collecting social security and doing nothing," McCrea said.
In the state of Colorado alone, older adults contribute well over $13 billion, and more than half of that they do for free out of the kindness of their hearts.
McCrea added, "$7.5 billion dollars worth of work for free. $7.5 billion in the state of Colorado in a 12 month period."
Getting a paycheck is not what it is about for them. Volunteers are asked for 24 hours a year or 2 hours a month. But what they get back cannot be calculated.
"Statistics show if they have a focus, if they're doing something outside of themselves and for someone else they're a lot happier,” McCrea said. “Their blood pressure goes down, their heart is healthier and they form their own little community, which helps them stay independent longer."
"They get free volunteer insurance and they get mileage reimbursement and social activities and educational seminars," Brewer added.
As a volunteer herself, McCrea says she was raised to finish what she started, and she says that's the best part of her generation.
"From my own experience as a baby boomer, I just remember being so inspired by Kennedy and his idea of people helping the community and going out there and making a difference,” McCrea said. “But I don't see that now."
That is why McCrea is fighting those senior stereotypes, and helping others do the same.
For more information on RSVP visit its website. If you are interested in volunteering call Ruth McCrea at (970) 243-9839.