Alexandria, VA – It’s been five years since the first training session of volunteers for Senior Services of Alexandria’s (SSA) Senior Ambassador Program. They heard from the City’s Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) and SSA about all the programs and services available to older adults residing in Alexandria and how they could communicate to their respective communities. We didn’t know if the program would be well received, and we can say today it was!
SSA and DAAS have trained over 100 community volunteers representing the entire city, including home associations, condos, city-managed senior living facilities, assisted-living facilities, houses of worship, and even members of the City Council and the Commission on Aging. We also have ambassadors representing local healthcare companies and other organizations providing support to older adults.
SSA holds virtual Zoom training sessions quarterly, with the next one scheduled for June 6 at 10 am. Since it is a volunteer program, we do not prescribe how much time you have to put into the job. We are thankful for whatever you can do to reach people with upcoming events, services, etc.
The program gained importance during COVID when the ambassadors were on the frontline providing information on how to stay safe and get vaccinated. The city was able to get older adults in the queue to receive vaccines as soon as they were available. We also started weekly Zoom meetings with guest speakers who provide services for the older adult population.
This has been invaluable and has educated the ambassadors on where to look for support if asked for help by a member of the community they serve.
To reach people from all of Alexandria’s socio-economic neighborhoods, and especially where English is not as widely spoken, SSA recently started a Spanish-speaking Ambassador program. This program is just taking off, and we look forward to serving more residents than ever. The goal is to reach all city residents, particularly older adults and their caregivers. We recently surveyed our current volunteers, and we can say that the information provided reaches thousands of older adults.
SSA was pleased to receive Honorable Mention for the 2022 Best Practices Award from the Commonwealth Council on Aging for the Senior Ambassador Program. We have also been asked by Arlington and Montgomery Counties to share information about our model as they explore the introduction of similar programs.
If you are interested in learning more or attending the June 6 session, contact me at [email protected]. Knowledge is power, and we want our older adults to be very powerful!
MaryAnne Beatty is the Director of Communications for Senior Services of Alexandria.