When Mary retired after 40 years as a psychiatric nurse, she knew she wanted to stay busy.
She began teaching free English classes at SUNY Attain Lab through ArchCare TimeBank, a volunteer service exchange program, sponsored by ArchCare, the healthcare ministry of the Archdiocese of New York.
For Mary, it was rewarding and stimulating to be sharing her skills with her community. When Mary had to take two months off for surgery and rehab, students from her class and other TimeBank members visited and even escorted her to doctor visits.
The TimeBank model is simple. TimeBank members give their time to help other people or organizations and, in turn, receive services for themselves. As a BPHC Innovation Fund award recipient, ArchCare has expanded its TimeBank to the Bronx.
TimeBank services run the spectrum, including friendly calls and visits, errands, minor home repairs, reading to someone, and cellphone and computer lessons. Those who receive services are not required to reciprocate, but are offered opportunities to contribute if they can such as making phone calls, writing birthday cards, or crocheting lap blankets for nursing home residents.
People who are elderly can receive assistance that helps them continue to live at home, such as shopping for groceries, preparing a nutritious meal, or escort to a doctor’s appointment. The fact that they can also give their time reinforces their self-worth, makes them more accepting of help, and provides a sense of community.
Community is a key word. “So much more is going on than the exchange of services,” says Mashi Blech, TimeBank Director. “Many seniors are at risk for isolation. We have built a community of mutual support that is enriching, engaging and improves overall well-being.”
A recent study of older adult TimeBank members found that 71% of those surveyed reported improvements in their mental health and 47% reported improvements in their physical health.
Surprisingly, the science of matching TimeBank members goes well beyond its database. Mashi describes it as an “art form.” There are many other factors that can’t be captured in a data field but are key to making a successful match. TimeBank matches cross generational, income and ethnic divides.
TimeBank’s Bronx program is focusing on providing services to frail and homebound elderly residents. ArchCare is building partnerships with Bronx social service providers, food pantries, churches, and other community organizations. Nurses, social workers and case managers are being trained to refer people and encourage participation. To date, nearly 200 people have already been engaged.
“We’re using reciprocal service to address social determinants of health and improve healthcare utilization for vulnerable seniors,” says Mashi. “That is what DSRIP is working to achieve.” ArchCare will evaluate the impact on Bronx members’ self-reported quality of life, social connectedness, and health.
ArchCare has been successfully running one of the largest TimeBanks in the world, with over 1,600 individual members and 100+ organizational members who contributed 17,000+ hours in 2017. Visit archcaretimebank.org for more information.