By Chriso­pher Oak Reinier

It was an appre­ci­a­tion par­ty for the vol­un­teer Senior Peer Coun­selors at their last group meet­ing last year.  Melis­sa Fike, WCCS Direc­tor of Senior Coun­sel­ing and Vic­ki Wede­gaert­ner, Pro­gram Man­ag­er, host­ed the grate­ful fest. With­out the gen­eros­i­ty and skills of the vol­un­teers who par­tic­i­pate in this very help­ful and suc­cess­ful pro­gram, the pro­gram could not be offered.  The qual­i­ty of the vol­un­teers’ work has made it a ben­e­fi­cial pro­gram for many elder­ly indi­vid­u­als in Sono­ma Coun­ty. West Coun­ty Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vices is indebt­ed to the con­cerned vol­un­teers who make the pro­gram pos­si­ble.

senior peer counselors at party
The Senior Peer Coun­sel­ing pro­gram pro­vides seniors with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to help fel­low seniors as they nav­i­gate the many chal­lenges of aging.  Vol­un­teers need not have any coun­sel­ing back­ground, but are car­ing indi­vid­u­als who pro­vide non-judg­men­tal empa­thet­ic lis­ten­ing and sup­port.senior peer counselors at party  Vol­un­teer Senior Peer Coun­selors par­tic­i­pate in 35 hours of train­ing focused on top­ics of key impor­tance in work­ing with seniors, includ­ing basic coun­sel­ing skills, grief and bereave­ment, fam­i­ly dynam­ics and active lis­ten­ing skills. The vol­un­teers learn about what they might hear, the anx­i­eties, grief, frus­tra­tions, and learn how to help the elder­ly man­age their prob­lems with pos­i­tive atti­tudes toward aging and bet­ter emo­tion­al bal­ance.