There's a great resource in our York County community that isn't tapped nearly enough -- our senior population.
Senior residents have lifetimes of experience, both personal and professional, to share. Anyone who's benefited from such advice knows it's the practical type of counsel you can't find in books.
A pair of initiatives aim to solicit some of that wisdom -- while helping our seniors in the process.
State Rep. Seth Grove is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow senior citizens to volunteer in schools in exchange for a reduction in their school property taxes.
The proposal, which cleared the House with unanimous support, is a common-sense idea that helps both seniors and schools -- seniors save some money on taxes, and schools get help, the Dover Republican said.
Each district would have to decide if it wanted to participate, how it wants to arrange the program, and how much seniors could save.
The legislation would formalize a system already embraced by some school districts in York County.
In the Northeastern School District, seniors with annual household incomes of $25,000 or less can participate and earn a $500 tax credit for one volunteer, or $1,000 if two from the same household volunteer.
Not too bad. And if seniors are unable to do the volunteer work themselves, they can send a proxy and still get the tax break.
The York County Area Agency on Aging also has a relatively new program to link homebound seniors with caring volunteers willing to chat on a regular basis.
While it doesn't help with their tax bills, the Telephone Reassurance Program does help form a bond that might ease isolation-related depression in the senior participants.
The volunteer and the shut-in agree how often to talk, be it daily, a few times per week, or weekly, according to Beth Kehler, director of public relations and advocacy for the agency.
They talk about everything from their families and memories to the weather, chatting anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or longer, she said.
It's not just the seniors benefiting.
"As they talk about things of interest, what's going on with their lives, they build a relationship," Kehler said. "That telephone call might be their only contact with a person. Just this one little call, it's amazing what that can do in the life of somebody who's at home alone all day."
The program started in 2011 and now has 10 volunteer callers and eight seniors who have signed up.
But Kehler said there are thousands of homebound elderly people in York County, and organizers hope to see the program grow.
Both the calling program and the tax break bill are perfect examples of how we can take better care of our older residents -- and learn a thing or two in the process.