Volunteering, the best medicine of all
Seniors Week, 3rd-12th March 2017
Despite being a carer for a family member with a disability and a senior herself, Gladys makes her way every week from her Liverpool home to visit ageing people no longer able to be independent, to connect them to community and offer social support through CatholicCare’s Ageing Volunteer program.
She has been visiting the elderly in their homes and in aged care facilities for an amazing 20 years since retiring and laughs when asked why she likes it so much.
“Satisfaction is the number one thing,” she explains. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people. There are so many benefits from volunteering,”
As Gladys acknowledges, there are many benefits for volunteers as well as for the people they assist. That’s why 5.8 million of us volunteered in Australia in 2014, mostly in sporting activities, church-related roles and community programs, boosting the economy by a whopping $15 billion of unpaid labour according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The health benefits gained by volunteering have been widely documented, but for those celebrating Seniors Week it’s lovely to note that no one benefits more than those over 60 who spend at least 40 hours a year in a volunteer role.
The US “Health Benefits of Volunteering” study, first published in 2007, reported older volunteers experienced significantly improved physical and mental health in addition to greater life satisfaction and even a longer lifespan. The study also revealed seniors who have experienced major life events such as the loss of a loved one or adult children moving away can minimize the negative impact on their well-being through volunteering.
Gladys has developed her own special way of connecting to clients she visits by always finding things they have in common.
“I had a client who came from the North of England. I had plenty of conversation with her because I had travelled too; I had been to the lakes in the North of England,” she says.
A shared love of poetry led Gladys to take this connection a stage further. She found a poster of the poem “The Daffodils,” by English poet William Wordsworth, helping her near-blind client stick it to the wall of her nursing home room to read on every visit.
“She couldn’t see it but she could remember the words. It reminded her of her country and I thought that was great,” she says.
Gladys is also a fan of the training she receives alongside her volunteering which, she says, ensures her own continued personal growth.
“There’s so much to say about CatholicCare,” she explains. “They have a well developed program with an experienced team. There are training courses and meetings to go to. For me, volunteering is a two-way thing – its give and take.”
To find out more about volunteering with CatholicCare call 13 18 19 or visit www.catholiccare.org