Senior peer counseling throws residents a lifeline

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Jefferson Center for Mental Health is offering people interested in helping seniors a chance to join the Senior Peer Counselor program.

The program has been offered by the center for several years, but has really ramped up in popularity in the past couple years.

“This is a great opportunity for people who want to give back to the community, but may not be sure the best way to,” said Liz Smith, program director with the Jefferson Center. “When we first started the program we wanted our volunteers to be older adults, but we’ve found there are benefits to having young people participate as well.”

Volunteers do not need any experience, other than a desire to help. Training to be a counselor will be on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon, from Tuesday, Sept. 17, through Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 7878 N. Wadsworth Blvd., in Arvada.

“The training helps people understand a lot of different areas, and what many of these seniors may be going through. There is a mental health 10 portion and information on self-care, anxiety and depression,” Smith said. “Participants also learn about healthy aging and confidentiality.”

The training is on-going once participants pass, Smith added, so counselors will always have someone available to help and guide them if needed.

Once they are trained, counselors works with seniors who are frail, isolated and often times have difficulty getting out of the house.

“For some of these people, socializing is really difficult, so our counselors give them a kind of lifeline, so they’re not on their own,” Smith said. “They give the seniors emotional support and sometimes do what we call live reviews, which is a structured talk about their lives, and the counselors help the seniors work to resolve old resentments and conflicts.”

Mariane Neff, senior peer counselor, said she became interested due to her background of helping people.

“After I retired, I still felt like I had something to offer people, and I’m still active with the program, and still enjoy it,” she said.

Neff said that most of the seniors she has worked with have been at their homes, but in some cases she works to get them out of the house a little more.

“Doing this you really feel like you’re doing something useful,” Neff said. “It’s great to see someone move forward and get better.”

Smith said that seniors in the community should know this program is available for people who need help, and people interested in helping should know there is a chance for them to do some good for older people.

For more details and an application packet, contact Roberta Mangin, program coordinator at 303-432-5745.

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