National Volunteer Week is held in Australia from 15 – 21st May 2023, and is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteering. During this week, thousands of events will be held across the country to say thank you to the 6 million plus Australians who volunteer their time in some way, shape or form.
The theme for this year’s week is “the Change Makers”, and the week is a great opportunity to reflect on how you might be able to make a change in other people’s lives – and also in your own. Because volunteering doesn’t just improve other’s lives – it will also improve your own life as well. Studies have found a strong link between volunteering and improved quality of life and health – great news for those considering giving something back. Volunteering truly is the gift that keeps on giving – for everyone involved in the process. And that’s particularly true when it comes to aged care.
Volunteering will improve the lives of those you help
Many older people love to chat, tell stories and simply feel listened to – and your time is one of the most valuable gifts you can give an older person. Volunteering your time to help, care or simply listen can fill an older person’s life with joy and pleasure – something that’s well worth doing. You can provide support and comfort to people who genuinely need it, and that’s a very special thing.
Care and entertainment
Like anyone else, older people are in need of a wide variety of care and entertainment services, so if you have particular skills such as hairdressing, massage, manicure, singing, performance etc., you’ll be able to use them to enhance their lives. Aged care residents will usually appreciate you using your skills to help or entertain them, and will be grateful for any help you can provide. You’ll be able to enrich the lives of older people in a very rewarding way by using the skills you already have.
Any time you can spend with aged care residents will help ease the burden on aged care staff, and will also make their lives easier. With extremely busy jobs, most staff don’t have time to sit and chat with residents, so it’s a real blessing when they find someone who can. You’ll make their job more manageable, freeing them up to concentrate on where they’re most needed – a very valuable thing indeed.
Volunteering will improve your own quality of life
Sense of meaning and purpose
Having a sense of meaning and purpose is vital to enjoying your life – but this can sometimes be hard to find, particularly after you’ve retired. Volunteering gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and is a fantastic way to find some purpose. It can be very motivating to know you are making a difference in someone’s life.
Volunteering looks great on your resume, and signals to employers that you are a person worth considering. When you volunteer, you get to hone the skills you already have as well as developing new ones; plus you learn some of the ‘softer’ skills, such as communication, problem solving and task management – all things employers are looking for. A willingness to volunteer also shows that you’re prepared to give back to the community and you’re a good team player – and employers prefer to hire people with volunteer experience. Volunteering can also help bridge the gap between unemployment and a job, and can help create a path back into the workforce, as well as connection that might be useful.
Satisfaction and happiness
Volunteering is very likely to increase your own levels of wellbeing, and it is known to boost feel-good endorphins and improve your quality of life. Helping others can be very satisfying, and can even improve symptoms of depression and stress. It can lead to better mental health and even lowered mortality rates, according to some studies!
Older Australians in particular can find it hard to keep and create social connections once they’ve retired. Social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and poor health over time, lowering your quality of life. Volunteering is an ideal way to stay engaged and active, and to forge new connections with people. There’s a great chance you’ll find yourself interacting with all types of people, making new connections and even new friends once you start volunteering in aged care.
Will you consider volunteering in aged care?
Volunteering in aged care can be literally life changing. While aged care staff do a wonderful and vital job looking after the needs of aged care residents, they often don’t have time to sit with someone or do any of those hundred and one things that make people feel special, valued and heard. Many aged care facilities rely on the generosity of volunteers to help fill the gaps – and these volunteers make a significant difference in the lives of older people.
What could I do?
The sky is the limit, really! Here are just some ideas of ways you could volunteer in aged care:
- Providing companionship and social interaction with residents
- Supporting residents in daily activities, such as meals and recreational activities
- Escorting residents to appointments or local amenities
- Reading to residents
- Sharing your unique skill set
- Fundraising activities
- Pet visits
How to volunteer
It’s simple – just get in contact with your local aged care organisation and let them know you’re interested in volunteering. They will no doubt have procedures in place to screen volunteers, but anyone really is welcome to volunteer. There are no particular skills or education that you need – although it helps to have a respect and liking for older people, patience, a willingness to listen, some free time and a desire to make a difference. If you’d like to work directly with older people it would also help to have a friendly and caring personality, but there are plenty of ways to volunteer that don’t involve interaction with older people if that’s what you prefer.
Of course, the level of commitment you are willing to make is completely up to you. You can make a regular commitment to volunteer, or just volunteer an occasional amount of time when you have some free – but either way, you’re making a very real and vital difference to older people. National Volunteer Week is the perfect time to dip a toe in the water and try volunteering. If you’ve been on the fence about volunteering or have a vague idea that it’s something you’d like to do ‘someday’ – then consider this the nudge you need to give it a go! You won’t regret taking the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of older people – and also in your own.
Finley Regional Care welcomes new volunteers, and we’d love to hear from you! Get in contact via our website or call (02) 5504 6508 to register your interest or just find out more about volunteering in aged care.