Why do people volunteer?  The answers are as varied as the people I interviewed. I asked some of Caregivers’ volunteers what actually motivated them to volunteer.

John Meany — he likes to be called Jack — started volunteering three or four years ago after his wife died. Jack’s daughter had passed along copies of The Enterprise, and it was there he learned about Caregivers.

He thought, “If it pans out, so much the better.” Later he said, “Volunteering helped me through that time.”  It filled his empty time.

Jack does transportation twice a week. Mostly, he takes people to doctors for their appointments, sometimes to a hospital. Sometimes “…transporting for radiation, you get to know them [the clients]. After a while, people open up.” He continued, “After I got into it, I found that it really is keeping people in their homes. It’s doing what its mission says.”

So Jack started out as a volunteer for what he said was ”…a perceived, personal need.” There was no pressure from Community Caregivers.

And, after a while, he realized he looked forward to it; it was rewarding to satisfy someone’s needs.  “There’s a degree of satisfaction,” he said. “It’s hard to describe.”

Jack likes meeting people, and he sees that the people he helps are so appreciative.  He often finds himself saying, “That was a good mission today.”

Jack doesn’t want to portray himself as a hero or somebody who is outstanding. He calls himself ”…just an average Joe.” Jack joins Community Caregivers’ family in choosing to make a difference in his community by helping others maintain their independence, dignity, and quality of life.

Most of Caregivers’ volunteers don’t think of themselves as heroes, but they certainly are to those they help. Consider calling the office at 456-2878 to sign up for an orientation. The Fall schedule is first Tuesdays at 10 or Third Thursdays at noon.


This is the second of a series on why people volunteer with Community Caregivers. What led them to pick up the phone and call Community Caregivers to make an appointment for an orientation?

Jerry Ostrander shares his story.

Jerry started with Community Caregivers in February 2010. Since then, he’s provided transportation for clients to various appointments.

When I asked him what the impetus was for him to contact the Caregivers, he said, “That’s a tough question.” After some thought, he said, “God has blessed me beyond measure during my lifetime, and I feel strongly about the need to give back whenever possible.”

He went on, “I’ve been blessed with a nice comfortable retirement, a nice vehicle, the physical ability to drive.” So he decided to provide transportation “…as requested and when convenient to my schedule.”

Jerry learned a lot about Caregivers when he walked the indoor track at the Guilderland Y with Tom Morrison. The “why” he joined resulted from the multiple conversations he and Tom had. Tom volunteers for the Caregivers, too.

“It is clearly a discussion and subsequent decision I am very happy about,” Jerry said. He believes volunteering is important because he feels “…a personal responsibility to help others.” He added, “Maybe more personally gratifying is the reality that my life is so enriched by serving others,” even when all he does is provide a ride to an appointment.

The assignments Jerry has allow him to develop friendships. For example, for three years he drove a client to visit his wife at a nursing home. He said you can’t drive someone for three years and not get to know them. “I have always received more than the service I provide,” he said.

Mary Morrison, Caregivers’ Transportation Coordinator, gets kudos because she knows Jerry likes a “regular, weekly assignment,”  since it allows him flexibility. When Mary calls for an additional assignment, he is very willing if his schedule permits.

Transportation continues to be the most requested service. In June, there were 249 requests for that service alone. Jerry took one client to visit his wife; he now has another client he takes to therapy two times a week.

Keeping folks in their homes and helping them maintain their independence is what Community Caregivers is about. Check out the website: communitycaregivers.org. Our number is 456-2898. Or talk to Jerry. Say happy birthday if you see him; it was Aug. 24.


Interest in the “village movement” for aging in the community continues to spread across the country and state.  A new village called Love Living at Home was recently incorporated in the Ithaca area.  Rhinebeck at Home in the Hudson Valley also is a relatively new village.

In Albany, Livingston Village is being developed by Senior Services of Albany in a public school recently converted into senior apartments. There are a number of villages in Westchester County and they are working with the Center for Aging in Place Services there, which provides support.  There are also villages in New York City, in Long Island, and in the western part of the state.  

The Albany Guardian Society has hosted two meetings this year to provide information about how to develop villages.  Community Caregivers is interested in discussing and supporting the village concept with other local seniors interested in setting up villages in Albany County.

The Village Movement became a national organization, which is based in St. Louis.  Its national website can be reached at this link to get a look at the various organizations around the state and nation that have identified themselves as either formed or interested in forming a village: http://www.vtvnetwork.org/content.aspx?page_id=1905&club_id=691012

The village movement began several years ago in Boston when Beacon Hill Village was formed by neighbors who wanted to join to help each other stay in their homes or community.  Dues were charged to provide a staff and some services though the models in each community are different and reflect the desires of the local group.

In addition to the services provided, the connection to an organization run by the members builds a sense of community and support and reduces isolation and the feeling of not being able to manage the challenges of living at home and aging.

Since the first village, the movement has taken off because of the local connection and hands-on participation.  However, maintaining a village is difficult and many face issues related to ongoing financing to support staffing and the usual turnover and “aging out” of older activists who were the original founders.

Increasingly, villages are being organized by existing not-for-profits that can provide some ongoing support, though many still spring up as local efforts of community volunteers.

Of course, New York State has many other aging-in-place communities like the NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) that are funded by the State Office for the Aging and the New York City Department for the Aging. NORCs in these government programs have definitions that were in legislation so they are not as open-ended as a local village might be.

Villages and NORCs complement the formal health-care system and the formal aging network, providing services based on income and eligibility for the most part.  It is critical to support and engage self-help community groups as well as caregivers and volunteers.  It is also important that the state continue to nurture and support the movement.

Community Caregivers, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides non-medical services and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors. To find out more about our services or volunteering, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Michael Burgess serves as a consultant to Community Caregivers; he formerly headed the New York State Office for the Aging.


Summer is a great time to be outdoors in Albany County. Whether you are gardening, visiting a farmers’ market, going to the fair, or are off to the races, it’s also a time to be vigilant about the risks of excessive heat and sun.  While too much heat is unsafe for everyone, the risks increase for anyone who is older or has health problems.

In upstate New York, most of us have heard of “hypothermia” caused by exposure to cold weather. But the risk in hot weather, which we may not be aware of, is “hyperthermia.”

Hyperthermia is caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body. Hyperthermia includes: heat fatigue, heat syncope — sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

While older adults are generally at risk for these conditions, this risk can increase with the combination of higher temperature, individual lifestyle, and general health. Lifestyle factors include not drinking enough fluids, a home without air-conditioning, lack of mobility or access to transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places, and not understanding how to respond to hot weather conditions.

It’s recommended that older individuals, particularly those with chronic medical conditions, stay indoors in cooler spaces on hot and humid days. People without air-conditioning may find relief in air-conditioned spaces like senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters, and libraries during the hottest hours of the day.

During stretches of hot weather, consider making a daily call or visit to an older relative, friend, or neighbor.

The National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, has valuable advice to help all of us avoid the hazards of hot weather. Awareness of factors that increase the risk of hyperthermia may help with prevention. They include:

— Dehydration;

— High blood pressure or other health conditions that require changes in diet. For example, people on salt-restricted diets may be at increased risk. However, salt pills should not be used without first consulting a doctor;

— Heart, lung, and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever;

— Use of multiple medications. Please note that it is important to continue to take prescribed medication and discuss possible problems with a physician;

— Reduced sweating, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and certain heart and blood pressure drugs;

— Age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands;

— Being substantially overweight or underweight; and

— Alcohol use.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its temperature. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include a significant increase in body temperature (generally above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), changes in mental status (like confusion), strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, feeling faint, and staggering or coma.

Seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with heat-stroke symptoms, especially an older adult.

To keep heat-related illnesses from becoming a dangerous heat stroke, you can:

— Get out of the sun and into a cool place;

— Drink fluids, but avoid alcohol or caffeine. Water or juices are recommended;

— Shower, bathe, or sponge off with cool water; and

— Lie down and rest in a cool place and, importantly, get medical assistance if you don’t cool down quickly.

Safety precautions in the heat will help keep our memories of Summer 2015 happy ones. If you would like more information about health and aging from the National Institute on Aging, go to www.nia.nih.gov.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors. To find out more about our services or volunteering, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for community Caregivers.


How do you motivate people? What is it that causes a person to take action, to take that first step? Specifically, in the case of volunteering for Community Caregivers, what will cause you to pick up the phone and call us?

I asked Mary Morrison, Caregivers’ transportation coordinator, to give me the names of eight to 10  women and men of  various ages  who have volunteered for CC. What motivated them might motivate you.

These are the questions I asked:

— 1. Age;

— 2. Date you started volunteering;

— 3.What services did you provide;

— 4. What was the impetus for you to call CC to look into volunteering; and

— 5. What would you say to someone who has expressed interest in CC to take the first step?

If the volunteer’s name is included, they have given permission. This is the first of a series to hear what some of our volunteers said.

When Judy Lenihan of Delmar was getting ready to retire, she “…was exploring a lot of options in planning retirement — docent at the Albany Institute of History and Art, ushering at one of our local theaters and I had been researching senior services in Bethlehem.”

One other activity, pre-retirement, occurred. She went to a job fair to see, as Judy put it, “what was available part time.”

At the job fair, Judy met Caregivers’ executive director at the time who explained, “Since our society is so mobile today, many families don’t have relatives to count on when they need help, and that is where CC can help.”

At this time, although she was still working, Judy learned about an opening for a transportation coordinator that allowed her to make calls evenings and weekend. (This job no longer exists for volunteers.)

 “It was a good fit for a while,” she said. After retirement, though, Judy wanted to do transportation for clients because it suited her “desire for flexibility.”

During this time period, I had met Judy and asked her to join the Volunteer Support Committee. Judy says that she has encouraged two of her friends to volunteer. She says, “Your personal invitation to join the VSC is what encouraged me to join the committee.”

What would Judy say to someone who has expressed interest in volunteering but hasn’t done anything yet?

“You can volunteer — as often as you want; there’s a no-guilt policy; rides for clients are important (not just seniors); there is joy in knowing that you are really helping clients access what they need due to a variety of circumstances; I enjoy meeting different, interesting people.”

Lastly, Judy says she’d ask a person who was contemplating volunteering what his or her biggest concern was. What is holding them back?

After a few years, Judy started in 2006, she became a client and received transportation services to chemo appointments. She said, “I would want to share what that meant to me.”

Take the step. Call 456-2898 to find out the date for the next orientation and what all the opportunities are.