The Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Programs at Northern Arizona University’s Gerontology Institute are seeking individuals throughout Arizona who are older than 60 and want to help others.

Foster grandparents volunteer their time bridging the gap between generations by establishing meaningful relationships to help at-risk children develop confidence and skills. Senior companions volunteer to help make the lives of other seniors less lonely and stressful.

“Both programs offer people a way to help others while increasing the fulfillment in their own lives,” saidCarole Mandino, director of the Gerontology Institute.

Foster grandparents are matched with a preschool, elementary school, hospital or another program serving at-risk youth, such as Head Start, a national child development program for low-income families.

“The result is mutual respect between the senior volunteers and children, which builds authentic relationships and fosters a sense of community,” Mandino explained.

Foster grandparents participate in helping preschool children by reading to them, playing instructional games, creating crafts and working with their primary teachers to help them learn numbers and words.

The Senior Companion Program allows volunteers to increase the quality of life of other seniors. They help homebound seniors and other adults maintain independence in their own homes. Besides friendship and guidance, they often provide assistance with simple chores or transportation needs.

Foster grandparents and senior companions must be at least 60-years-old, meet certain limited income guidelines and receive 40 hours of initial training. They can volunteer anywhere from 15 to 40 hours a week. They receive stipends for training, a non-taxable hourly stipend, paid vacation, sick time, meal and mileage reimbursement, secondary insurance coverage, an annual physical, as well as “recognition and shared affection,” Mandino said.

Established in 1986 at NAU, the Gerontology Institute manages the Foster Grandparent Program, the Senior Companion Program, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and internship programs for students. It serves Coconino, Apache, Navajo, Yavapai, Mohave and West Maricopa counties.

NAU’s Gerontology Institute recently received Programs of National Significance Grants for its Senior Companion Program and its Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. The Institute also receives funding and support from NAU, United Way, the Flagstaff Community Foundation, the Forest Highlands Foundation, the Thomas Maren Foundation, the Barness Foundation and Glendale from the Heart.

For information, go to www4.nau.edu/gerontology.