Making a Difference

Volunteer says time with seniors makes difference in their lives


Volunteer says time with seniors makes difference in their lives

MISSOULA, Mont. - Statistics from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services show Montana is aging at a faster rate than most of the other states in the nation.

Projections indicate that, by 2030, Montana should rank at least fifth in the nation in the percentage of people older than 65.

Advocates say volunteering to help seniors is becoming more important.

Volunteer Laura Gravante dedicates a number of hours each week to the residents at The Springs at Missoula.

"When they have parties, she is always helping this one and helping that one.  If you are sitting somewhere by yourself, here comes Laura to give you a hug," said resident Eva Amundson.

"She is just awesome interacting with them. They just really enjoy their time with her," added life enrichment coordinator Debbie Michalik.

"I think I'm sort of funny.  I try to make them laugh as much as possible.  If they are having a dull day, you try to brighten it up," said Gravante.

Gravante's first urge to volunteer came when  Hurricane Katrina hit, and she helped with Red Cross phone lines, but then wanted to find more ways to make a difference in society.

"Laura welcomed me, so I felt comfortable here.  We just talked for an hour or better.  I guess she got reprimanded a little because she stayed with me too long," said Amundson.

It's not just the outgoing residents Gravante takes time for. "It's always nice to have an extra hand to be with a resident, say, who is in memory care, to just be with them," explained Gravante.

"It's just great to have somebody come in and bring in life from the outside," said Michalik.

"That's what I am here for.  It's truly my calling, I believe," added Gravante.  

Gravante tells us the only time she will stop volunteering is when she is a senior center resident herself.

The Department of Health and Human Services says, because Montanans are living longer, addressing the needs of an aging Montana will continue to be an issue over the next 15 to 20 years.

If you would like to volunteer with seniors in your community, you can contact one of Montana's 10 aging services facilities across the state.

Missoula Aging Services coordinates a number of volunteering opportunities around the Missoula area.  

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