Herman Satterfield is a spry 95-year-old who is continuing a tradition and value taught him by his parents, and expanded to include seniors in his community. Satterfield is marking 25 years as a Senior Companion Program volunteer. In that time, he has been friend, companion and helper to an estimated 30 clients in the Pope County area, serving some of them upwards of 10 years.
Satterfield said he continues to help other seniors in his community because it is “the best thing in the world. It helps keep me busy, and gives me a purpose.” He also said he enjoys the friendships he has made with clients and other volunteers.
Satterfield was born in the Gumlog community, he said, and he spent his formative years in his parents’ home as they cared for their aging parents. He graduated high school, joined the armed forces and served his country during World War II. He then married the love of his life, Glyndolene, with whom he raised a daughter and a foster daughter.
“Church was our life,” he said of his family. “I had a praying mother. She prayed me through the war.”
Through the years, he worked for auto body shops and car repair shops and even owned his own business, Satterfield Body Shop.
“I drove an armored car in the service,” he explained “and I had to keep it running.” He spent his days before retirement in work clothes and work boots, carrying around greasy rags and taking care of the vehicles that were left to his safekeeping.
That changed 25 years ago, when he saw an ad in the local paper for the Senior Companion Program. “I wanted a job where I could wear clean clothes,” he said, with a small laugh. So at age 70, he volunteered his services with the program, took 40 hours of training and began helping seniors retain their independence in their own homes for as long as possible. When his wife moved to a nursing facility in 2011, he cut back on his volunteer hours, so he could spend every afternoon with her. “I’d go to my clients in the morning, and then in the afternoon, I’d go to the nursing home and stay until they put her to bed around 8.” He said. “She was worth it.”
He said in the beginning, the SCP volunteers were given more responsibilities than they are today, citing changing rules and regulations. But he said he continues to do all that he can for his clients, including driving them to appointments, conversing with them and just spending time with them. He may also fix their lunch or read with them. All of his current clients are younger than he is. “There is always a bond with my clients,” he said. “There has never been a cross word between us. They’re just like family.”
Today, he spends his time continuing what he learned in his boyhood – caring for others. Although he took six months off when he lost his wife of 71 years in 2015, he is back in the program and happy to be helping others. Last month, he gave 96 hours of service to his clients, he said. Satterfield and the other 35 volunteers in Pope County give more than 3,000 service hours per month, among approximately 90 clients. Pope is one of 11 counties served by the Senior Companion Program administered by Area Agency on Aging of West Central Arkansas.
“We are always looking for more volunteers,” Jenny Riley, program director, said. “It is such a rewarding experience for the volunteers and for the clients.”
Volunteers must be age 55 or older, have reliable transportation, and must pass a background check. If they meet certain income requirements, they qualify for a small stipend for their volunteer hours. All volunteers are also reimbursed for their mileage. In addition, volunteers receive monthly training and recognition throughout the year. They also are covered by insurance while they are volunteering
Volunteers are not required to be as devoted as Satterfield, Riley said. “But so many of our volunteers give so much of themselves.”
So what’s Satterfield’s secret to longevity?
“Living a clean life,” he said. “I’m a Christian and I never got into the bad stuff. I exercise every day.” Volunteering, he said, gives him a reason to get out of bed every day, and he recommends it to anyone interested in enriching the lives of others. “It’s the best thing you could do,” he said.