I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…

We all have a light within us, and we should let it shine. That’s exactly what AARP South Carolina volunteer state president Emma Myers decided to do when she launched her “This Little Light of Mine” project earlier this fall.

The project seeks to use first responders and volunteers to replace older light bulbs in senior homes with new and free energy efficient LED light bulbs. The Richland County Sheriff, the Columbia Chief of Police and the Columbia-Richland Fire Chief have committed their deputies and officers to help with installing the lights. Volunteers will accompany the first responders to give literature about in-home safety, energy tips, etc. There are several potentially positive outcomes to having first responders and volunteers going into the homes of seniors to replace these lights.

First, it helps brighten senior homes to reduce the incidence of senior falls  which is the number one trauma affecting seniors. The cost of falls to seniors both in dollars and quality of life can hardly be overstated.

Second, it can bring some modest savings on seniors’ electric bills. Energy bills often make up a disproportionately high percentage of the household budget for those on social security and a fixed income as compared to people still working.

Third, it allows for the first responders and volunteers to help educate seniors on various topics ranging from seated exercises, crime and fraud prevention, fire prevention and readiness, as well as ways that seniors can make their homes more energy efficient. The first responders can also help declutter furniture that make create a tripping hazard for seniors. They can also check smoke alarms, door locks, and faulty fixtures in senior homes.

Finally, it allows for neighborhood building and takes step toward creating a bond of trust between local residents and the first responders that serve their communities.

Myers would like to take the program state-wide but for now she is launching the program in neighborhoods within the 29203 zip code in Columbia.

She started with a “Bulb Blitz” in Ensor Forest on Oct. 22 and installed 275 bulbs in senior residences. That was followed up with another two days of installing lights in the Greenview neighborhood on Nov. 27-28. In total the project has given away nearly 1400 free light bulbs that typically retail around $4-$6 apiece.

Myers notes that we are not selling anything nor soliciting for any organization; the LED bulbs and their installation are free. Myers hopes to partner with other law enforcement and firefighting agencies around the state as well as other organizations that work to while help to bridge the gap between public servants and local communities by truly serving those communities.

AARP is proud to support Myers and our other volunteers engaged in shining a little light on serious issues for seniors.