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.
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. 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.