Upon first glance it would seem that the most helpful part of the Home Chore Program is the assistance with housekeeping and yard work that seniors receive from volunteers. No doubt, anytime your yard is covered with leaves or your driveway is piled with snow or your dishes are stacked up in the sink, it is a relief to know that volunteers are available to help with these tasks that have become more difficult. And the volunteers, for their part, are willing to do the work. After all, they signed up to help with a program called the Home Chore Program, which does not beat around the bush: you will be doing chores.
The longer that I work with volunteers and seniors in the program, though, one thing becomes increasingly clear to me. The housework and yard work that is performed on a regular basis, while ever-important, is often a secondary benefit. What could be more important than having the carpet vacuumed and the bathtub scrubbed? Ask any senior or volunteer involved in the program and they will tell you, it’s the companionship! It is close to impossible to spend time with a person each week or a few times a month and not get to know them a bit. I have heard delightful stories of volunteers who have come to view their senior match as an adopted grandparent, and seniors who look forward to their volunteer’s visit as if they were family. While they may not be family, the seniors and volunteers who participate in this program often become close friends.
One high school volunteer, when asked how the program was going, famously replied, “Well, it’s going well, but I don’t really do much. Mostly my senior and I sit and watch Oprah together!” When questioned further, the volunteer acknowledged that she also spent time doing the dishes and helping take out the trash, but it was almost an afterthought. For her and her senior match, the most impressive part of the program was the time they spent together talking and sharing common interests. Of that, I think Oprah would be proud. I know that we are!