To the editor:
As a program supervisor of Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent Programs in Minnesota, I am writing to make people aware of what may be happening to the Senior Corps Programs in Minnesota and around the country.
For four and a half years I have been witness to the extraordinary energy that older Americans bring to solving key community problems.
Last week, the United States House of Representatives passed legislation that would make deep cuts in government spending for the rest of the fiscal year. No one today would argue that government spending must not be curtailed.
However, many of the cuts will simply move spending from one place to another and have devastating outcomes for our nation's most vulnerable citizens.
Senior Companions serve 15 to 20 hours a week, providing non-medical, home-based services and transportation to frail elders, which contributes to their quality of life and most importantly, contributes to their being able to remain living in their own homes and apartments. Foster Grandparents also serve 15 to 20 hours each week, tutoring and mentoring children who are struggling to succeed academically and socially.
In Minnesota, the impact is extraordinary.
Last year, 366 Senior Companions helped keep 1,920 frail elders in their homes, serving more than 270,000 hours, and driving more than 1.3 million miles to get folks to appointments, grocery stores and community activities.
Also, 419 Foster Grandparents contributed 306,000 hours, helping over 2,600 children with intensive one on one assistance with academic and social skills.
The cost savings to government are exceptional, as are the stories of lives changed - both for the volunteers and the children and elders they serve.
Both the needs and resources will grow exponentially as our nation's retiring baby boomers create an unprecedented aging boom.
Gail L. Sumerfelt