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January 24, 2012 > Life Eldercare: A Passion for Helping Seniors

Life Eldercare: A Passion for Helping Seniors

Submitted By Rachael Vander Martin

Finding caring, compassionate people to help the frail elderly is LIFE ElderCare's mission; Don Hammack, who volunteers with the organization's Friendly Visitors program, is a great example of how one person can make a significant contribution. In addition to working in Building Maintenance for the City of Fremont, Don currently visits three men in the program who greatly value his friendship and assistance. "One of them has Parkinson's Disease," he says, "and I think our walks around the block three times a week have slowed the progression of his illness. We also went to the Annual Friendly Visitors Party last September which was a lot of fun."

Married 42 years, with two daughters, Don has lived in Fremont since 1967. At age 65, he works out at a gym every day to keep up his strength and energy. In addition to working with LIFE ElderCare, Don also helps seniors through faith-based groups with home repairs, mowing lawns and giving rides. "My passion is seniors," he says, "they are the people with the most special needs and should be honored for their wisdom, experience and longevity."

As a 14-year cancer survivor, his own experience with illness helped him develop the compassion he now enjoys sharing with others. "The way I see it, there are not well people and sick people," he says, "It is more a matter of degree. We do everything we can to stay healthy but none of us have total control over what happens." Don finds that the best remedy during hard times is family love. "Families who show compassion and love for their elderly ones are a benefit to everyone; my family is like this and I enjoy sharing my experience with others."

Don says he really likes recruiting people into the Friendly Visitors program because it lightens the burden of people in need and gives meaning to people who are helping. When asked why he spends so much time helping people who may not be here in a few years, he says with a laugh, "I don't know what your destination is going to be, but I know where they are going and when I get there I'm going to have a lot of friends."

His advice to people with elderly friends and relatives is to give them lots of hugs. "Showing affection is very important, even if it's just to hold their hand or caress their shoulder; so few of them receive any physical warmth or gentleness from people." Don also thinks it's important to acknowledge the contributions older people continue to make as they age. Some of the seniors he visits are providing friendship to people who are going through difficult times or struggling with serious health problems. "You can create your own loving community right here in your own town," he says, "it just takes is a little bit of your time. "

If you would like to join Don as a Friendly Visitor, call Bernie Thien at (510) 574-2097 or sign up online at www.lifeeldercare.org.

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