Volunteers age 55 and older are needed to counsel clients of Jackson County's Age Wise, Age Well program.

Volunteers age 55 and older are needed to counsel clients of Jackson County's Age Wise, Age Well program.

Counselors pay clients weekly visits in their homes, listen to the challenges seniors face and help them live fuller, more independent lives. Administered by Jackson County Mental Health, the program has served hundreds of seniors since 1989, says coordinator Brent Poulton.

"We mostly listen to what's going on with people," Poulton says. "Loss is a big thing. People have lost spouses, loss of mobility."

Volunteers not only listen and help find solutions but also direct clients to the community's other resources for seniors, as well as advising their families and caregivers, Poulton says. Their income not a factor, clients often are referred through assisted-living facilities and health-care providers but can sign up for the program themselves, he says.

"We're serving a population that is not getting served anywhere else," Poulton says, adding that he fields several new referrals each week.

"The need is really great."

Age Wise counseling is confidential, voluntary and comes at no cost to clients or counselors. The program is affiliated with a nationwide association and funded locally by Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

At the core of Age Wise is communication between peers, Poulton says. Because counselors are, themselves, seniors, they relate to clients in ways that some doctors, caregivers and advocates can't. Most of the program's 12 volunteers are in their 70s and 80s and have been with Age Wise for at least two years.

"You have to be a certain age before you understand some things about life," Poulton says.

Counselors are expected to dedicate one hour each week to counseling, which may comprise just two sessions but could last two years, depending on clients' needs, Poulton says. Another two hours per week is spent reviewing and discussing cases with other counselors. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation.

Scheduled to begin April 14, training will take place over six weeks, two days per week for four hours each day. Would-be volunteers must fill out applications and follow up with interviews. For more information, call 774-7958.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.