SCHENECTADY – While Umbrella of the Capital Region is just one of many companies assisting senior citizens daily, its business model is unique: skilled, helpful retirees helping other senior citizens.
“We’re helping elderly folks, disabled folks take care of things around their house so they can stay in their homes and not get forced to move out of their homes and into assisted living, a nursing home or someplace that they just really don’t really want to go, but they can’t take care of their house,” Ron Byrne, executive director and co-founder of Umbrella said in a phone interview.
Now celebrating its 25th year, Umbrella members pay an annual membership fee based on their federal income level and pay $15 per hour for any services, including food shopping, painting, lawn care along with repairs in and around their home.
More than 140 retirees provide services through Umbrella, serving more than 500 members within their homes in the Capital Region.
“The goal is that everybody in the program lives in their own home the rest of their life and sometimes we actually pull it off,” Byrne, 71, of Altamont said. “It’s always a bittersweet moment when somebody calls you on the phone and says mom or dad has passed; but thank you for helping them stay at home for the remaining days of their lives.”
The business model came from Byrne’s own experience after his mother fell and broke her hip, femur, tibia, and collarbone more than 30 years ago.
“The next thing I know some of the preoccupations in my life turned towards trying to help her stay at home from 800 miles away,” Byrne said. “The secret ingredient for her and ultimately for Umbrella is the fact that retired people helped her, her friends mostly. They would get her groceries, clean her house, mow her lawn, whatever she needed.”
His mother has since died, but her memory and Umbrella’s mission live on through current retirees.
“I think of the workers here as almost like volunteers,” Byrne said. “They’re retired, they work when they can, they do what they are good at.
“They’re supposed to play golf, they’re retired, or they’re supposed to travel, so we fit Umbrella into their lives. As a reward, they go out and do stuff for a song, for almost nothing.”
As a not-for-profit, Umbrella relies on its ongoing fundraising efforts and grants with the $15 per hour rate for services paid to the retirees.
“We’re always looking for more helpers,” he said. “It’s a great thing for retired people to do, I really think they love it.”
For more information, contact Umbrella at www.theumbrella.org or call 518-346-5249.
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] or @StanHudy on Twitter.