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In an effort to increase collaboration between programs, the Utah County Senior Services programs will be joining the Utah County Health Department (UCHD)

"They are housed in the health department's building, and Senior Services have interacted with the health department on programs and efforts for years," said Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson. "When evaluating the programs, we thought it would be both cost effective as well as beneficial to collaboration efforts to put the county senior service efforts under the wing of the health department."

Utah County Senior Services operates two main programs, the Senior Companions and Foster Grandparents programs.

"Senior Companions are healthy older adults who help other adults live independently," said Marianne Christensen, Senior Companions program coordinator. "They go into a frail or elderly individual's home and help them with such things as transportation or running to the bank or grocery store for them. They give companionship and additional support to help keep individuals in their homes and independent."

"Foster Grandparents provide mentoring, love, assistance and support to at-risk youth in local schools, day cares, development centers, and residential treatment centers," said Cheri Christensen, Foster Grandparents representative. "Our grandparents work under the supervision of trained professional staff in these facilities to provide love and support and who is better to give that love than a grandparent?"

Utah County Senior Services utilizes seniors in the county to assist in their programs. "Besides the volunteer service they provide, our seniors also receive a boost in knowing they are doing something to help in the community. It helps their own independence and self-esteem to know they are serving a useful purpose."

Seniors that volunteer are given initial training as well as four hours of in-service training every month. These regular meetings help them address challenges or problems that they face while serving. "They are somewhat limited in what they can do in a school or a home, but these meetings give us a chance to talk through problems and brainstorm solutions together," said Marianne Christensen.

Volunteers for the Senior Services programs are asked to give 15 to 20 hours a week. Qualifying seniors receive a small stipend to help cover costs as well. "The stipend doesn't count as income against other assistance programs," said Cheri Christensen. "But at $2.65 an hour, they obviously aren't doing it for the money."

"It is a really fun job to work with these volunteers," said Marianne Christensen. "It is amazing to see how they reach out to other seniors, kids, and the community."

"We are excited to work more closely with the Senior Services programs," said Dr. Joseph Miner, Utah County Health Department director. "It really isn't a new relationship. Our Community Health and Health Promotions programs have worked with the Senior Services staff for years. With the Senior Services staff officially joining the health department, we will be in an even better position to collaborate our efforts." Miner said the UCHD programs offer health screenings, education, and healthy lifestyle programs for all age groups, but have several that specifically focus on aging community members.

The Senior Services Program receives funding for its efforts through various state and federal grants, as well as support from Utah County. They are a member of the National Senior Corps, a division of the USA Freedom Corps and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Senior Services have 70 to a hundred volunteers at any given time. To learn more about their programs click here or call 801-851-7784.

Utah County Senior Services are independent of the Aging and Adult Services programs -- including Meals on Wheels -- operated by the Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG).

The Utah County Health Department is committed to promoting the health of our community, prevent avoidable disease and injury by monitoring the health of our community, and assuring conditions in which people can be healthy. For information on UCHD programs or services, please visit www.UtahCountyHealth.org or call 801-851-7000. You can also now follow the UCHD on Twitter -- go to www.twitter.com/uchd.