National Volunteer Week was held from 17th – 23rd May this year, and is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteers.
While aged care staff do a great job looking after the needs of the residents in their care, aged care homes also rely on the generosity of volunteers to spend quality time with the residents. This can be a huge blessing to aged care residents, as aged care staff are often too busy to sit and chat for long with residents (you can read more about all the tasks of an aged care worker’s day here. And many elderly people crave that connection with other people that someone with time for a chat can establish.
Volunteering in aged care will not only benefit older people during their twilight years, it also provides some great benefits for the volunteer as well. Here are just some of the reasons why you should consider volunteering in aged care this year.
You’ll make a difference in the lives of older people
Many elderly people are in need of our most valuable gift – our time – and giving of that is the best way to make a real heart-opening difference in aged care. Volunteering your time and care for someone can help fill their life with joy and positivity.
You can use your skills
If you have any special skills or talents that might be useful in an aged care setting (for example, artistic talents, gardening, hairdressing, nail and manicure skills, massage skills, dancing, singing, magic etc.) you will be able to use them to enhance the lives of aged care residents.
Aged care residents are usually hugely appreciative of someone taking the time to make their life a little happier, and will usually love for you to display your skills. Performing your skill or talent at an aged care residence will allow you to practice it in a low-stress situation, on people who are usually endlessly grateful for your help. It’s a win-win situation – you get to practice your skill, while the aged care residents receive care or entertainment. Everyone has something special to share, and doing so in an aged care setting will enrich the lives of many older people in a very rewarding way.
You’ll improve your feelings of wellbeing
When you volunteer in aged care, not only will you be doing good for others, you’ll also be doing something good for yourself!
After a year where many of us have experienced mental and financial stress, loneliness, isolation and fear, volunteering can provide a way for us to connect to our local community again. It can lead to better mental health, improved mood, lower stress levels, increased feelings of being needed and potential pathways to employment. In some studies, volunteers have even been shown to have a lower mortality rate than those who don’t volunteer!
As J.M. Barrie famously said, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves”.
You’ll gain new perspectives
Volunteering in aged care allows you to share someone else’s perspective and step into their shoes just for a little while, and this can be enlightening and broadening. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day issues of your own life – but volunteering can help expand your horizons, change up your daily routines and gain a new perspective on life.
You’ll learn new skills
There are many skills you’ll pick up when volunteering in an aged care facility. You might develop some “hard” skills like first aid, IT knowledge or patient care, or softer skills such as working under pressure, time management, leadership, problem solving or working in a group environment.
You’ll hear some great stories
People in aged care residences come from different walks of life, backgrounds and places, and have vastly different personalities, aspirations and experiences. Most aged care residents love a chat, and love to share life knowledge and stories of their lives (and many have incredible and fascinating stories to tell). It’s amazing what we can learn if we really listen to what they say – and if you really take the chance to get to know someone.
You might make some new friends
Age does not need to be a barrier to friendship, and you might find yourself making meaningful connections with aged care residents or other volunteers. Creating bonds with others is special, no matter where it occurs, and the beauty of sharing personal connections cannot be overestimated. Meaningful relationships are also shown to combat stress, anxiety, depression and anger.
It looks good on your resume
According to studies, employers prefer to hire people who have volunteer experience. This shows that you are a good team player, and likely have good communication, task management and problem-solving skills – all things that employers are looking for. Plus, it demonstrates that you are willing to give back to the community, which is another positive sign for employers.
Volunteering is also a great way to get yourself back into the workforce if you’ve been out of it for a period of time, and helps you bridge the gap between unemployment and a job.
You might be able to bring your pet
If you have a beloved pet that would be a good fit in an aged care setting (probably no large guard dogs or skittish cats), you might be able to volunteer their services too (keep in mind that this will depend on the policy of each individual aged care facility). Many elderly people love getting visits from pets, as it’s often difficult for them to keep their pet once they move into aged care. A pet visit is likely to put a smile on their face and joy in their heart, plus it gives your pet the opportunity for some extra socialisation and attention. And you’ll no doubt lap up plenty of compliments about how wonderful your pet is!
You’ll have a greater sense of purpose
Particularly for retired people, it can be difficult to maintain a strong sense of purpose when you no longer work. Volunteer work can add purpose and direction to your life, and give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Some ways you can volunteer
- Providing companionship and social interaction with residents
- Sharing your unique skill set
- Supporting residents in daily activities, such as meals and recreational activities
- Escorting residents to appointments or local amenities
- Reading to residents
- Fundraising activities
- Pet visits
Volunteering in aged care can be life-changing
Helping to make a difference in people’s lives can be incredibly rewarding.
Whether it’s volunteering on a daily basis or helping out for an hour here and there, aged care volunteers make an invaluable contribution to aged care communities and society as a whole. And by doing so, you’ll reap the benefits, too. Your background, skills or level of education make no difference – anyone is welcome and able to volunteer. If you have a respect for older people, a desire to make a difference and the chance and time to give something back, you’re ideally suited to becoming an aged care volunteer. In light of National Volunteer Week, now might be a great time to make the commitment to volunteering in aged care – and make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Become a volunteer at Finley Regional Care
With so many benefits to both yourself and aged care residents, volunteering in a win-win situation. If you want to make a difference in the lives of elderly people, you’re very much welcome to volunteer at Finley Regional Care. Give us a call on (02) 5504 6508 to register your interest or for more information.