As Baby Boomers reach their senior years and longevity increases, the country is experiencing what is metaphorically referred to as a “silver tsunami.” According to population estimates from 2018, 22 percent of individuals living in Franklin County are 65 or over. By 2030, it is estimated that 31.5 percent of people living in Franklin County will be over 65. As the number of seniors in the region increases, it is imperative that we develop opportunities to meaningfully engage a population that has contributed their talent and time to our community for many years.
In September of 2019, Greenfield Community College (GCC) will launch the GCC Senior Volunteer Program. This program builds upon a history of engaging seniors in the community that began in earnest in 2002 when former GCC administrator Risky Case collaborated with former GCC Dean for Community Education Bob Barba to create the Senior Symposia. This unique program created a path for seniors to engage in accessible life- long learning in a manner that suited their unique needs and interests. The Senior Volunteer Program will be facilitated in collaboration with RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program). It provides opportunities for local seniors to volunteer at GCC in various capacities such as staffing the new GCC welcome desk, serving as a conversation partner to an ESOL student, working with GCC staff and students in the GCC garden, supporting events for alumni, mentoring GCC students, and more. The program also provides students with a broader network of support and connections in the community. Through this program, GCC students will have the opportunity to build multi-generational relationships and practice critical soft skills that are essential to a balanced education and success in the workplace.
This program is closely aligned with our mission, which reads (in part); “lives change for the better every day at Greenfield Community College. Families grow stronger and so too our community.” GCC has long been at the heart of unique community collaborations that engage diverse individuals and transform lives. GCC takes seriously its responsibility to be the community’s college and respond to the needs inherent in changing demographics in Franklin County. Program coordinator, Judy Raper said, “Seniors in the region have long been an integral part of the GCC learning community. The volunteer program adds another layer of relationship for our students and allows for cross generational learning and enrichment. Relationships such as these are vital to the success of our students and will be meaningful for those seniors who participate.”
Additionally, GCC will be holding a Senior Summit in the Cohn Family Dining Commons on October 24th, 2019 from 9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. The purpose of the summit will be to gather feedback from local seniors and those that work with this population regarding programs and learning opportunities GCC can offer to meet the needs of this growing population. President Yves Salomon-Fernandez said, “Our older adults are vital members of our community and have expressed a desire to continue to be engaged with each other and with younger generations. The Senior Summit will provide an opportunity to hear, beyond the small group that we’ve engaged in the last year, about the kinds of lifelong learning opportunities and programming our community wants. We’re excited for it.”
Individuals interested in registering to be a senior volunteer at GCC can do so at https://www.gcc.mass.edu/seniors/ or by contacting Judy Raper, Associate Dean of Student Development at 413-775-1819 or email@example.com.