For many volunteers, work doesn't stop with retirement. Peggy McHale retired from her dialysis job seven years ago, but wanted something to do now that she was no longer working.
"I was quite bored," she said. "I'm not a sit-at-home-do-nothing person."
So the Ballston Spa resident became a volunteer at the Office for the Aging, helping take people to their medical appointments. McHale likes to drive, and she found she especially enjoyed the longer routes — helping ease people into going to the doctor. She encourages them to make a list of concerns before the appointment.
"I try very hard to connect with people," McHale said. "I have a little problem. If I find I can't get someone into my space, I work hard to get them there."
Getting to know people comes naturally to McHale, who had worked in the health care field as a nurse. During the COVID-19 pandemic, McHale has participated in Saratoga County's Care Calls program, helping to connect with older adults who could be facing social isolation. Studies have shown losing contact with people can be detrimental to a person's health, and the federal Medicare program has spent $6.7 billion to address the issue.
Advocates for older people say more work is needed to address the needs of the state's elderly population — especially in rural areas of New York.
"I just know the strife a lot of the older people go through and they feel lonely and no one cares anymore and someone like myself can step in and make them feel like they're special and they are important," McHale said.
For those who might be thinking of volunteering themselves this holiday season, McHale said the rewards of doing so are apparent.
"It's just very satisfying knowing that you may be able to help someone out, that maybe it could be one of your parents that needed this help or a borther or a sister or a family member — it's just very rewarding," McHale said.