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New York state honors older volunteers during Older Americans Month

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Thu, May 7th 2020 07:00 am

Month of May pays tribute to older adults from across country for their contributions to communities

The New York State Office for the Aging is celebrating New York’s older volunteers and the “extraordinary value they bring to our state.”

“We have highlighted for years the significant contributions older New Yorkers make to their families, communities, and the economy,” NYSOFA Acting Director Greg Olsen said. “This pandemic has demonstrated how critical our network of volunteers is as they put themselves at risk every day to provide critical services to older adults in their homes to slow the spread of the virus. And we recognize how essential our older volunteers are. They are saving lives. I could not be more thankful and proud.”

“During this unprecedented time with the coronavirus pandemic, older adults across the state are continuing to step up in their communities,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “We commend our older New Yorkers for contributing selfless hours of community service and volunteerism to provide critical services to their peers. Without their efforts, many older adults would not have the food, supplies and medications they need to help ensure their health and safety. On behalf of all New Yorkers, we thank you for your service to others.”

A press release said, “May is recognized nationally as Older Americans Month, where we acknowledge the incredible efforts and diverse contributions older adults make to their communities. In New York, there are almost 1 million volunteers age 55-plus who contribute almost 500 million hours of service annually at an economic value of more than $13 billion. This year’s Older Americans Month theme is ‘Make Your Mark,’ which perfectly captures the role older New Yorkers are making during this pandemic. Their time, experience and talents benefit family, peers and neighbors every day. Communities, organizations and individuals of all ages are also making their marks. This year’s theme highlights the difference everyone can make – for older adults, to support caregivers, and to strengthen communities.

The New York State Office for the Aging and its 59 area agencies on aging across the state honor exceptional individuals who, through their actions, demonstrate the spirit of civic engagement and selflessness. Older New Yorkers who are volunteering are providing essential services during this pandemic as a result of Matilda’s Law by delivering meals, groceries, supplies and medication; providing transportation to critical medical appointments such as dialysis and cancer treatments; and making phone calls to older adults to combat social isolation.

The press release noted, “These volunteers are true heroes who deserve our gratitude for being on the front lines to help others.”

Dr. Ann Sullivan, commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health said, “We are proud to stand in partnership with the New York State Office for the Aging in helping older New Yorkers with the emotional distress many are undergoing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether people are experiencing loss, grief, loneliness, isolation, anxiety or uncertainty, the Office of Mental Health has a team of trained volunteers ready to support them through Gov. Cuomo’s COVID-19 emotional support helpline. Just call us at 1-844-863-9314.”

Rebecca Preve, executive director of the Association on Aging in NY, said, “The value of volunteers to the aging network is immeasurable. The delivery of services and supports throughout New York state would not be possible without the selfless dedication of our volunteers. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that volunteers are the lifeline for basic human needs, including food, prescription delivery and transportation. We are so thankful for our volunteers and are proud to highlight them during Older Americans Month.”

This year, NYSOFA is highlighting its traditional volunteers every day during the month of May on its website and through social media. In addition, it will highlight volunteers who are putting themselves at risk to serve their communities and are continuing to work to address the needs of older adults during this pandemic by providing meals, groceries and supplies, medications, transportation and addressing social isolation.

The press release added, “Older Americans Month shows the true side of aging – that it’s not about artificial numbers that represent age, because how old we are is not what defines us. It is our actions, passions, commitments, perseverance and goals that define us – and an artificial number can never be placed on these.”

NYSOFA works to help the state’s 4.3 million older adults be as independent as possible for as long as possible through advocacy, development and delivery of person-centered, consumer-oriented and cost-effective policies, programs and services that support and empower older adults and their families, in partnership with the network of public and private organizations that serve them.

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