By Carol M. Crecy, Director of External Affairs, U.S. Administration for Community Living
For 50 years, May has been the month we celebrate older adults across the nation. You could say that Older Americans Month is coming of age. This year’s theme—“Unleash the Power of Age!”—emphasizes older Americans’ potential for energy and activism and urges them to embrace it.
There is no age limit on achievement—and older Americans are doing incredible things. They make a difference in their communities by continuing their careers, pursuing new business ventures, and volunteering in their retirement years. To find ways to get involved in your community, visit www.Serve.gov.
Staying active, engaged, and healthy is good advice for everyone, but it is especially important for older people. The U.S Administration on Aging (AoA), supports older adults through programs and resources to encourage healthy living. In addition, the Affordable Care Act is making certain vital preventive services, such as mammograms, diabetes screening, and an annual wellness visit, available for seniors with Medicare. Also, check out Go4Life, an exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging at NIH.
Throughout the year, and especially during Older Americans Month in May, we urge all Americans to appreciate and celebrate the vitality, aspirations, and achievements of elders and their contributions to society.
June 7, 2013
An art auction to benefit
Umbrella of the Capital District’s
mission to assist the elderly and disabled
to remain in their own homes and communities.
On Tuesday December 4th beginning at 11AM, the Schenectady and Guilderland Chambers of Commerce held a ribbon cutting celebrating the opening of Umbrella of the Capital District’s new office location at 9 North Broadway in Schenectady. The ribbon cutting was sponsored by McNamee, Lochner, Titus & Williams, PC.
The new space was completely renovated by Schenectady’s Urban Initiatives Group. ”This space is more affordable for us and it meets our need better any location we’ve ever had before ” said Umbrella co-founder Ron Byrne. ”Our rent went down, there’s lots of parking for visitors, the building is handicapped accessible and the quality of the workspace is much improved, said Byrne. When it comes to moving a business that’s about as good as it gets, he added.
Umbrella started 17 years ago. The organization is dedicated to helping Capital District seniors live safely and independently in their own homes. Currently, more than 500 elderly or disabled homeowners rely on Umbrella for help with everything from routine housecleaning, home maintenance and yard work to dealing with plumbing or heating emergencies. Since Umbrella began, more than 3000 households throughout the Capital District have been served.
Umbrella is unique because it matches homeowners in need of help with handypersons recruited in large part from the retired workforce. Retirees have skill and experience, and most are looking for ways to share what they know with others. Uniting homeowners in need of assistance with retirees who want to help has been a win-win situation earning Umbrella a prestigious Met Life/Civic Ventures Encore Award in 2009, as one of the best programs in the country for people looking to do something meaningful after retirement.
Serving Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties, Umbrella has a dedicated workforce of more than 100 retirees from throughout the Capital District. They are not contractors, but they do have wide variety skills that can help you to maintain your home and your independence. Umbrella doesn’t do everything, but its professional staff will do everything they can to help its customers find the services they need even if not directly provided by Umbrella.
In an emergency, help is just a phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On that cheerless night when a pipe bursts, a furnace won’t start or a window breaks, Umbrella handy people are ready and able to correct the problem. What’s more, they arrive at your door within 90 minutes!
Umbrella is always looking for community and business partnerships as well as skilled retirees looking to help peers stay in their homes. Anyone interested in getting involved should call 518-346-5249 or email email@example.com for more information.
Umbrella handypeople Fran Callahan and Lori DeBrino were featured in the Times Union recently for the help they provide seniors served by Umbrella of the Capital District. Below Fran poses with homeowners and husband and wife, Paul and Joann Pagiotas at their home in Clifton Park, NY. Because of the services of Fran and Umbrella of the Capital District, the elderly are able to stay in their homes. Click here to read the full article.
Schenectady County and The Chamber of Schenectady County are partnering to recognize the service and sacrifices made by our veterans and have invited local business to help with this very important initiative that is taking place throughout the county, the Return the FAVOR Discount Program. The program provides veterans and active duty military with a discount on purchases and services at participating County merchants.
Contact your Chamber or County Veteran Service Agency to see if a ” Return the FAVOR Program” is in your County. Umbrella has signed up to participate by offering 50% off enrollment for disabiled veterans. It’s a wonderful way to support the people who protect our country.
At ceremony held at the National Press Club today in Washington DC, Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation have awarded an Encore Opportunity Award to Umbrella of the Capital District, Inc. The agency is one of eight organizations throughout the United States being honored for making it easier for experienced workers to transition into encore careers – paid jobs that offer meaning and the chance to make a social impact. Umbrella received the most votes of any organization in the nation. A total of nearly 100 organizations were considered.
Founded in 1995, Umbrella is a Schenectady based nonprofit organization devoted to helping senior citizens and people with disabilities throughout the Capital District to maintain their homes and to live independently. The organization intentionally recruits 50-plus workers with the appropriate technical skills including carpentry, painting, miscellaneous repairs and lawn care. In addition, Umbrella’s workers also help the elderly and disabled with grocery shopping, transportation and house cleaning.
The individuals who serve as Umbrella handypersons come from all walks of life. Many are retired police officers and firemen; others are homemakers, or retirees from business and industry who enjoy and are talented at repairing and sprucing up houses.
“This year’s Encore Opportunity Award winners are innovative, adaptable and smart — and clearly recognize the need to take advantage of the windfall of talented older Americans,” said Dennis White, CEO and president of MetLife Foundation. “These trailblazing employers can serve as a model for others to follow.”
While layoffs and hiring freezes remain the norm in most industries, experts still project talent shortages in some health care, education, nonprofit and government jobs. Meanwhile, surveys show that millions of boomers want to find encore careers where they can give back and have an impact. But finding the right fit is not always easy.
“For those in midlife and beyond, looking for a job these days is often a do-it-yourself project made all the worse by exhaustion, isolation, and high unemployment,” said Phyllis N. Segal, vice president of Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. “But some nonprofit and public sector organizations are hiring and retaining people over 50 to meet community needs – and doing so in an exemplary fashion.”
Finding skilled staff for Umbrella is an ongoing challenge according to Elaine Santore, one of Umbrella’s co-founders. “We are always looking for talented and caring people to assist our members in maintaining their homes and independence, Santore said. “These kinds of jobs are especially well-suited for retirees, who may seek reduced hours and the ability to mix work with family, travel or other activities during retirement.” “The program is very flexible; the handypeople get to choose when they work, where they work and what they want to do.” “In the long run, this kind of program can contribute to improved overall health for everyone involved. This goal is achieved through high quality home maintenance, the emphasis on prevention and the sense of connection that is inspired when seniors have an opportunity to reach out and help others in their communities,” she added.
Umbrella, which serves four upstate New York counties, maintains a pool of roughly 140 workers, called “handypeople,” available for minor home repair and housekeeping. As of fall 2009, 94 percent of Umbrella’s handypeople were 50 or older.
“The fact that the workers are older is a big part of why clients enroll in Umbrella,” Santore says. They’re served by “peers who are trustworthy, respectful, and capable – someone they can relate to.”
Clients pay a yearly sliding scale membership fee ranging from $145 to $315. When they need work done, they call Umbrella, which arranges a service call. The client pays the handyperson directly – $12 per hour.
Bill Gosier, 75, signed up as a handyperson five years ago. He had been a food services manager for 30 years and had dabbled with home repair as a side business. In his mid-60s, Gosier had taken a maintenance job at a department store chain and retired at 70. He had heard about Umbrella at the local library and joined its roster a few months after retiring.
Gosier says he enjoys the work and being able to help people. He knows he could make more if he went into business for himself, but he appreciates Umbrella’s flexibility. And besides, he says, “If I was a contractor, I’d need to hire someone to schedule my jobs for me.”
Umbrella’s model is spreading, expanding encore opportunities. Recently, the organization helped a senior services provider in nearby Colonie, New York, create its own program.
Rick Iannello, executive director of the Albany Guardian Society, a nonprofit that seeks to improve seniors’ quality of life, says he respects Umbrella’s founders for creating a necessary, innovative, sustainable service. The benefits to the clients, he says, are obvious. The benefits to the workers may be more subtle, but are just as meaningful.
“The fact that they are paid for their work is highly important,” Ianello says. “It recognizes that you as an individual have a life of skill and effort. And now we’re asking you to put that to work for older people.”
In 2007, MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures first honored nonprofit and public sector employers with what was then called the BreakThrough Awards. The inaugural winners similarly exhibited successful strategies for finding, hiring and maximizing workers over 50.
About Civic Ventures (www.encore.org)
Civic Ventures is a national think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.
About MetLife Foundation
MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on its long-standing tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The Foundation has been involved in a variety of aging-related initiatives addressing issues of caregiving, intergenerational activities, mental fitness, health and wellness programs and civic involvement. More information about the Foundation is available at www.metlife.org.