Friday, January 31, 2014

Dad - Volunteer of the Year

Yesterday Dad was awarded volunteer of the year and employee of the quarter by the Oceanside police department in the dining hall of his residence. It seemed like all of the residents were in attendance - it was an event with balloons, cupcakes, beer, wine and a DJ (okay, it was held in the middle of the "happy hour" at the residence).

Dad's "job" was data entry and management of the department's gang identification database. The gang database interfaces with national resources so information input must be accurate and fit a formatting standard, and the information is also highly sensitive protected by privacy laws and potentially dangerous.

I remember when Dad started volunteering - he wanted to manage the gang database because it had been ignored, required special skills and security clearances, and since no one knew what they were doing it would mean he would have top dog status in the department.

Dad likes top dog status. He's a leader. But more than that he likes to be in charge.

Dad worked his way into that top dog status because he figured out the system, understood the shortcomings and developed rules and regulations for interfacing with the system (and him).

He knew that he held the keys to a successful gang remediation program within the city. Because he entered all the data he also knew about all of the gang activity in the city and could identify nearly any gangster.

And Dad being Dad, he quickly made friends with everyone in the department, particularly the top brass, because he wasn't shy in telling everyone what they should know - in particular that he was a VOLUNTEER and that he could quit or leave at any moment, that his job was unique, and he didn't have to do anything he didn't want to so don't abuse him.

Dad and the OPD

Chief Frank McCoy celebrated Dad's efforts with a heartfelt speech describing my father's history with the OPD, how much they relied on him and the importance of the work he did for the officers on the street as well as for the community (gang associated crime was down over 25% in 2013 from the prior year).

It was a pretty special affair and I was very proud of my father; the sort of pride a dad feels for his son, except in reverse!

This is the third time Dad was given volunteer of the year - he has been a volunteer with the Oceanside, CA police department for over 14 years.

That means he started working for them at age 77.

When Dad was awarded "Employee of the Quarter" though it dawned on me that he IS an employee, at least under the eyes of workers' compensation laws in California (Texas has held differently).

Age 91 and he's employee of the quarter. Pretty darned impressive.

Which brings me to the aging workforce trend.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance had identified issues of increased severity and associated medical costs with older workers, while some other entities have published studies that the impact on work comp isn't really going to be all that great.

It all seems kind of irrelevant anyhow. There's plenty of science that working is what keeps people going, providing value to life, a sense of self and worth and overall just something to do with all that extra time.

After all, how many times have you heard that someone "retires" only to die a short time later, largely out of boredom with life.

To Dad, the OPD was everything. He had regular office hours as part of his weekly routine. He knew a lot of the officers in the department and even helped his Captain's daughter get a job at the residence while she attended college.

The first thing Dad wanted when he was released from this last hospital stay was to know when he would be able to get back to his work at the OPD (unfortunately that isn't going to happen).

Working was (and still is) life for Dad and he brought value to the OPD.

So whether there is increased costs or liabilities as a consequence of the aging workforce or not, it seems that as long as an older worker (volunteer or not) is contributing to the overall success of the enterprise - delivering value - the associated incremental increases in workers' compensation risk are de minimis.

I think that we forget this part of the employment equation in workers' compensation. So we deal with claims - those are going to happen. Some employees will be brought back to work, others won't.

It's all so personal. Whether one can, or wants to, work is up to the individual. Some need motivation beyond feeling good, and others can't give enough.

Whether or not age presents an increase in workers' compensation risk is irrelevant to the grand social scheme. It really is about whether or not an individual can, and wants to, continue contributing to society.

My father never quit delivering value to society. He LOVED work, so long as it was on his terms!

The risk of the aging workforce isn't about claims, its about interfering with lives. Older workers are still workers, just older. They don't need special protections, special laws, special anything - just work on their terms so they can continue to have purpose, providing value to society.

Dad can't do that job anymore because of his disability.

At least he had the foresight early last year to advise the Chief and his Captain that they needed to start recruiting another volunteer to do the job because of his age and the uncertainties that advanced age brings to existence on earth; the screening process for the job is arduous and lengthy due to the sensitivity of the information handled.

I was really proud of Dad yesterday. Still am.


  1. I can certainly understand your pride in your father.

  2. Congratulations to your dad! What an achievement! I agree. We are all individually driven in determining our value to society. No one should assume that age equals poorer health, lesser capability, lower value. In most cases, it is in fact - the opposite.

  3. Great article, Dave. As you know, my parents are in the same situation as yours. Unfortunately, my father's health has declined to the point that he can no longer do the things he once did. He often comments on how he wishes he could contribute - even in a small way. Our parents' generation knew how to work, and knew the value of each person doing what he/she could. We owe them a great deal.