Older Americans Act (OAA) programs have always relied on volunteers as part of their workforce. Volunteers have been significant contributors to aging services network, serving at every level and in the delivery of all types of services. With a growing aging population, an increased need for critical services and reduced funding to meet the growing need, the AoA/ACL is challenged to mobilize the social capital of volunteers, especially older adults, and to deploy them as volunteers through the Aging Network.
The Administration on Aging (AoA) is the lead partner of the National Network on Aging (the Aging Network). The Network consists of 56 State Units on Aging (SUAs), 629 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), 264 Tribal and Native organizations, some 20,000 service providers, and thousands of volunteers who operate a comprehensive system of home and community-based services for older individuals and their families.
The 2002 amendments to the OAA included provisions to begin to address these volunteer issues. The amendments included a broad definition of civic engagement as “an individual or collective action designed to address a public concern or an unmet human, educational, health care, environmental, or public safety need.” It directed AAAs to make use of trained volunteers in providing direct services delivered to older individuals and individuals with disabilities needing such services. It encouraged creating opportunities for older individuals to participate in civic engagement activities and improving coordination of volunteer programs for older individuals.
It also provided for a multi-generational/civic engagement demonstration grant focusing on discovering and documenting effective, sustainable, replicable exceptional local program models that positively impacted their target populations and demonstrated effective engagement of older volunteers in direct services and organizational, technical and developmental roles. Three populations were targeted: grandparents and other relatives raising grandchildren, families raising special needs children, or caregivers of frail, vulnerable elderly.
Building on this earlier grant, in 2010 AoA awarded a Cooperative Agreement to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a). N4a and its partners created the Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative at http://agingnetworkvolunteercollaborative.org/ to help the Aging Network more effectively use and expand the number of volunteers. The Collaborative assessed the needs and barriers to volunteering; offered technical assistance through workshops and webinars; built a virtual resource center consisting of a technical assistance clearinghouse, functionality for blogs, live on-line chats, polls, webinars, and public and private practice communities for learners. It awarded small incentive grants; implemented a national communications campaign; developed evaluation mechanisms to measure performance and developed a partnership with LexisNexis to reduce the cost for volunteer background checks.
This Program Announcement builds upon the existing and previous grants and current knowledge about volunteerism. The AoA plans to award one cooperative agreement to support a National Volunteer Resource Center. This national volunteer center will develop and sustain volunteer workforce capacity within the Aging Network.