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York County, Pennsylvania
In York, Pennsylvania, students build relationships with older adults while earning extra cash.
Identifying the Issue:
Household chores, like yard work, shoveling snow, and mowing lawns often become more difficult with age. Older adults may also need some assistance with technology including computers, cell phones and remotes. At the same time, there are plenty of youth who are capable of helping with these tasks. In an intergenerational effort to solve both issues, the York County Area Agency on Aging started the Rent-a-Kid program to “not only get the job done, but also to foster friendships between older adults and youth.” Run entirely by volunteers, the program has matched older adults who need help at home with possible students in their area for over 30 years.
Matching Older Adults and Youth:
Interested middle and high school students, grades 7 through 12, must first complete an application and permission form that identifies their skills, the kind of work they are interested in, and how far they are willing to travel to get to a job. York AAA volunteers then use a coding system to enter the information provided by the youth and clients in a database, and determine which jobs the student is suited for. Comparing addresses within the database allows youth and older adults to also be matched geographically. Volunteers will match each older adult with three potential youth.
Once these matches are made the older adult is notified and responsible for contacting the assigned youth to discuss details, including specifics of the job, when they are needed, and the rate of pay for the job. The recommended rate of pay is $5 an hour, enough to give young people some extra pocket money, but the youth and the older adult may negotiate a higher rate depending on the complexity of the task and the ability of the older adult to pay. The York County AAA recommends that a young person’s parent or guardian should accompany their child on the first visit. The application requires a reference from a guidance counselor (if in public school) and the signature of a parent or guardian, acknowledging that Rent-A-Kid is a referral agency only and that there is no kind of bonding or insurance for either the children or the employers of the Rent-A-Kid Program.
The Rent-a-Kid program matches 50 seniors every month with young helpers. Some youth have continued working for the same older adults for years and many parents have also become involved, either as a replacement for their child when they go to college, or through other social events. While the program has worked successfully in York County for over 30 years, administrators caution that communities seeking to replicate this model should consider how it would best work in their own community and how they should address issues of liability.