Interview with Diane M. Stobnicke, Volunteers of America Division Director
Interview with Diane M. Stobnicke, Volunteers of America Division Director, Northern Colorado Services for five years provides information on current volunteer services for Larimer County seniors, as well as future needs. Ms. Stobnicke has a Master of Public Administration degree and almost 40 years of experience in human services programs, nine of which are with Volunteers of America. She is responsible for the administration of the division, which includes seven different programs for seniors and 12 staff members.
Volunteers of America provides services to the most vulnerable individuals in the community. In Larimer County, services are focused on elderly adults to support them in remaining self-sufficient for as long as possible. Services include home-delivered meals, congregate meals, grocery-shopping services, commodities delivery, handyman services, respite services for family caregivers, and volunteer opportunities.
In terms of your area of service, what would you say are the most critical needs of seniors in our community?
Seniors need access to an array of affordable services that allow them to remain in their home. These services include food, housecleaning, building repairs, companionship, case management, etc. In addition, seniors need affordable public transportation.
Of those needs (or others), are there aging issues for which there is little (or no) adequate means of support?
Affordable case management would benefit many seniors by helping them navigate through all the support services opportunities. Often seniors do not access existing services because they either do not know about them or are unsure or unable to contact them.
There also seems to be very little support for "odd" jobs seniors need completed, such as moving appliances, painting, roof repair, and others.
What is your perception of how these needs now affect our community at large?
I am not sure the community at large is aware of the needs of our low-income elders.
What are your thoughts about the potential impact of seniors’ growing needs in five to ten years?
If we do not provide the simple services needed to keep our elders healthy and in their homes, then we will be paying the higher costs of institutionalization down the road.
What approaches/solutions have been tried in attempting to deal with these needs?
We do our best in assisting our Meals on Wheels clients to find necessary services, but we do not do full case management. We provide as much handyman support as we can afford, but it is limited to safety issues.
Which approaches/solutions have succeeded, and why?
We have found that the more one-on-one time we can give to an elder, the better the results.
Which approaches/solutions have failed, and why?
Just providing reading material does not change behavior. For example, we can provide information on how to prevent slips, trips, and falls, but unless we review it with the senior and help her or him address hazards, then very little change occurs.
What steps can community members take to help with solutions to current and potential unmet needs of the elderly?
Take an interest in seniors and value their contribution to the community.
Raise community awareness, so that when we fundraise we are likely to generate more donations.
Volunteer to provide some of these services.
What steps can community leaders/business leaders take to help?
Community and business leaders can take the same steps recommended for community members.