Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteering is held this week from 16 – 22 May, and recognises and celebrates the vital work of volunteers. While aged care staff do a wonderful job looking after the needs of residents in their care, many aged care homes rely on the generosity of volunteers to fill in the gaps. There’s nothing like the joy you can bring by taking the time to help out or simply sit and chat with residents who often crave connection with others. Volunteering can make a huge difference in the lives of older people, but also in your own life – you give but you also gain. Read on to discover exactly how volunteering in aged care can make a vital difference.
You can make a difference for older Australians living in aged care
Helping to make a difference in someone’s life can be incredibly rewarding. Giving the gift of your time, your talents, your energy and your care to someone in their twilight years can make a real heart-opening difference. You have the chance to bring a whole lot of joy, pleasure, connection and ease into someone’s life, and make a truly positive difference. By forging connections, building relationships, assisting with tasks or being a companion, you are spreading compassion, joy and care and actively making people’s lives better. You can provide comfort and support to people who may genuinely need it, and that’s a beautiful thing.
As well, you’ll also make the lives of often overworked aged care staff that little bit easier. Many staff members do not have the time to sit and chat for long with residents, so it’s a real blessing when they find someone who can. You’ll be able to take some of the burden off our wonderful aged care workers and make their job more manageable – and that’s something that’s definitely worth doing!
You can make a difference to your own life
The benefits of volunteering don’t just extend to the recipient – there are also plenty of benefits that come the way of the volunteer themselves – such as these.
When you volunteer in aged care, you’ll no doubt learn new skills and gain new perspectives – plus, it looks really good on your resume.
It can be enlightening and broadening to share someone else’s perspective for a while – to essentially see the world through someone else’s eyes. By changing your daily routine and expanding your horizons, you’ll gain a new perspective on life and become a more well-rounded person. As well, you’ll pick up plenty of new skills that make your more employable. Hard skills (such as patient care, first aid, technological skills etc.) will be highly valued by employers, as well as the “softer” type skills (such as problem solving, using initiative, time management, leadership, working under pressure, people management and working in groups). You’re sure to learn and hone procedures, skills or ways of working that you didn’t know before – something that can be very valuable when it comes to employment.
There’s every chance you’ll find yourself making meaningful connections when you volunteer in aged care – not just with the aged care residents, but also with staff members and other volunteers. No matter where or how it occurs, creating bonds with other human beings is special. The joy of sharing personal connections cannot be overestimated, and you can still enjoy a meaningful relationship even if there’s a big age difference. Many older people love to chat and tell stories, and many have plenty of sage life experience to share as well. And with so many different personalities, experiences, backgrounds and walks of life on offer, you may well come across some amazing and fascinating stories. When we really listen and take the chance to get to know someone, no matter how old, it’s amazing what we can learn.
As well, there’s the shared bond created by working in the same environment that you’ll build with other volunteers and staff – you might just make some new friends as well.
Sense of purpose and meaning
Many of us struggle to find a real sense of purpose and meaning in our lives, and volunteering can be a fantastic way to find purpose. If you need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, try volunteering – knowing that you are making a difference in someone’s life can be very motivating.
Particular benefits for older Australians
For older Australians, the benefits of volunteering can be even greater. It can be particularly difficult to maintain a strong sense of purpose after you’ve retired and the connections with your work life and social circle weaken over time. Older people can often experience loneliness, social isolation and depression, which leads to a lower quality of life. Volunteering can effectively overcome this problem by boosting social activity and connection and allowing people to develop strong social networks again. As well, it will often increase their physical activity levels, can help maintain and improve memory and thinking skills, boost feel-good endorphins and improve overall wellbeing and quality of life. That’s a lot of benefits you can gain from volunteering! In fact, doctors in the UK are now starting to prescribe volunteering to people as part of a treatment plan to deal with depression and isolation. Volunteering is a great way to alleviate the symptoms of loneliness, and give a renewed purpose and sense of belonging for older people.
What can you do?
Volunteering in aged care covers a broad spectrum of tasks and processes, and you can no doubt find a way to volunteer that will allow you to use your interests and strengths. Consider:
- Helping residents undertake daily activities, such as meals, hobbies or recreation
- Reading to residents
- Escorting residents to appointments
- Providing social interaction or companionship
- Taking residents for a walk
- Sharing your unique skill set (painting, craft-making, singing – whatever it is that you do, there’s a very good chance someone will enjoy it)
- Bringing your (well-behaved and trained) pet to visit residents
- Fundraising activities
How to become a volunteer
The great thing about volunteering is that anyone can do it. Anyone is welcome to volunteer, regardless of your level of education, skills or background. To volunteer in aged care, all you need it a desire to make a difference, a respect and liking for older people and some free time to give something back. If you have these things, you’re ideally suited to becoming an aged care volunteer.
Whether you make a regular commitment to volunteer, or just do an hour here and there, be assured that you are making a real and vital difference to people. Your level of commitment is up to you, but you will really be changing communities and changing lives. And with National Volunteer Week upon us, now might be the ideal time to start the journey of volunteering in aged care, and make a meaningful difference in someone else’s life – as well as your own.
If you would like to start your volunteer journey with Finley Regional Care, and join a wonderful and dedicated group of volunteers, get in contact on 02 5504 6508. We’d love to hear from you!