Y OPAS empowers seniors to live independently

(Left to right) Judy Stephens, a Y OPAS client, and Maureen Davies, a Y OPAS volunteer, visit.

Senior citizens challenge perceptions of the golden years as they embrace more active lifestyles, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help from time to time.

While many wish to live independently for as long as possible in their own homes, they need a little help periodically – a ride to the doctor, someone to change a light bulb in a high ceiling.

Y OPAS connects Ahwatukee Foothills seniors to people who want to lend a hand.

Since 2001, Y OPAS (Outreach Programs for Ahwatukee Seniors) has provided free services to seniors aged 62 and better. Supported by the YMCA, the organization serves as a hub for volunteers across all walks of life. Volunteers can work as frequently (or periodically) as they choose. Services offered include transportation, friendly visits and phone calls, caregiver relief, light household assistance and personal business support.

Back in 2001, OPAS’ original concept sprung from a grassroots effort at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Ahwatukee Foothills resident – and Great Britain import – Maureen Davies was recently retired and in search of some way to serve others. She read about the program in the Ahwatukee Foothills News and signed on.

She hasn’t stopped logging miles.

“I didn’t live near my own parents, and since I couldn’t help them, I chose to serve where I could,” she said. Davies has stayed busy, driving seniors to doctor appointments and also working in the office every week. She can still be found at the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA on Tuesday afternoons.

“Volunteering gives my life purpose. I like that I can be myself. You don’t have to have a specific religious affiliation or professional experience to volunteer here. At Y OPAS, we just focus on the work we’re doing. We don’t concern ourselves with image, or whether we’re making a big splash in the community.” she said.

There are unexpected benefits for volunteers and clients, as relationships develop. For the past couple of years, Davies and another volunteer have taken turns driving Judy Stephens to her dialysis appointments each week. Teasing each other warmly in Stephens’ tidy Ahwatukee Foothills home, it is clear the two enjoy a comfortable friendship.

Stephens, a wife and grandmother of 13, was introduced to Y OPAS a few years ago when she began to receive dialysis. Her husband still worked full time, so she needed reliable transportation to the dialysis center three times each week. Y OPAS “has been so faithful,” she said.

The program allows seniors to use its services twice each week and is considering expanding those options.

“I just don’t know what I would do without them. Maureen always calls to remind me what time she’s going to pick me up. She’s always on time, so I don’t ever have to worry,” Stephens said with a smile.

Executive Director Judy Lewisohn said: “In 2009, Y OPAS undertook more than 2,400 assignments assisting local seniors. We would not have been able to do this without our dedicated volunteers. We offer flexible options, shaped by the availability of each volunteer. Some just take one assignment a month, and others serve several times a week.”

For more information about Y OPAS, contact the office at (602) 212-6088.

 

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Meehl is a mother of three, a freelance writer and volunteer. Reach her at dianemeehl@cox.net.

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