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When Leo Juhola isn't adding to his collection of 10,000 campaign and advertising buttons, the 70-year-old serves as program coordinator of the Mukilteo office of Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA).



brings new life

 Senior helps seniors get benefits

    By Mark Ziegler
    Boeing News

For many of his 46 years at Boeing, Leo Juhola set the alarm clock for a quarter 'til five, got out of bed and happily joined the gang at work. The morning of Sept. 1, 1987, the industrial engineering manager woke up and realized life wasn't the same anymore.

He'd retired.

"I remember saying to myself, 'Gosh, I don't have anywhere to go.' Especially if you're interested in your job and like it -- as I did -- it's quite a change.

"A lot of things need to get done around the house, but as soon as those get done, you need something else to keep the mind and body and spirits active."

So, like an increasing number of retirees, Leo began a new career -- as a volunteer at a nonprofit agency.

He responded to an advertisement in a local paper for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a program sponsored by Senior Services of Snohomish County. RSVP matched him with Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA), an educational project of the State Insurance Commissioner's office. SHIBA is a statewide network of volunteers who educate and assist consumers about senior health insurance issues so they can make informed decisions.

Juhola spends about 80 hours a month educating and giving free advice to senior citizens, and those near retirement, about the complex workings of Medicare, Medicaid and other senior health insurance-related topics.

Each Tuesday, he goes to the main office for five hours, placing calls to the State Insurance office and attempting to recruit more volunteers. As part of an ever-expanding outreach effort, Juhola and his colleagues also go to the Boeing Everett plant to offer pre-retirement seminars for employees.

"A lot of people think that when they retire, Medicare takes care of everything," Juhola said. "We're trying to reach people before they retire. We tell them that they need to be prepared. Planning ahead is the key."

Bill Beuscher, director of the RSVP program for Snohomish County, called Juhola "an excellent example of a senior volunteer who has helped many people in his community, saved them thousands of dollars and saved them from financial ruin."

"Agencies find that Boeing retirees are especially valuable because they have a lot of time and skills to offer," said Jan Knutson, United Way liaison to The Boeing Company and the Boeing Employees Good Neighbor Fund. "Agency personnel don't have to train retirees the same way they do younger people, because of the wealth of expertise the retirees gained from their jobs within Boeing."

Knutson suggested that retirees wishing to volunteer can call local agencies such as the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, which matches retirees with nonprofit agencies.

Steve Slye, business director of the 1993 BEGNF campaign, said that in addition to voluntarism, donations from retirees are becoming more important as the U.S. labor force continues to grow at a slower pace than at any time since the 1930s.

There is now one retiree for every three employees, compared with one retiree for every five employees 30 years ago.

Retirees can continue to support their communities through BEGNF by filling out a pension deduction form.

"Now, more than ever, retiree participation in BEGNF benefits both the community and the retirees," Slye said. "Their gifts will be passed along to those in need, and retirees get a trusted avenue for making their charitable contributions."

Citing himself as an example, Leo Juhola said that retirees who help others ultimately benefit from the experience themselves.

"You've had an active life, and then suddenly that stops," he said. "Your brain doesn't get challenged anymore, you sit in your home, you don't do anything and you go to pot. I've seen it happen to others.

"By using your time to do things that are valuable to others, you'll help yourself. And it's rewarding. Because you're helping someone who needs it and wouldn't have any other place to go."


Related sidebar article:

Volunteer opportunities available