National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate volunteers and recognise the power of volunteers to tackle some of society’s greatest challenges.
This year, we sent a surprise gift of a travel bottle, gingerbread cookie, and some beverage packs along with a little note to say thank you to all our long-standing volunteers, for their important contribution to our lonely seniors in the community.
National Volunteer Week is also a time to encourage volunteerism within our communities, by raising awareness about our program and recruiting some new volunteers to join. So, we also decided to organise a pop up at South Tweed City Centre in
Northern NSW. We realise that going out into the community has become essential for programs like this, to reinvigorate the volunteering spirit.
Requests for a friendly visitor are increasing
As we are beginning to adjust to life alongside COVID-19 without the restrictions and lockdowns, life for many of us is almost normal again. However, feelings of isolation, loneliness and uncertainty is still apparent.
Our volunteer program continues to receive requests for a friendly visitor from seniors living in the community, and the demand for new volunteers is only rising. Yet our volunteer application numbers are down, and this is not isolated to our program. There has been a significant decrease to the number of volunteers in the community nationally, due to general uncertainty, COVID restrictions, and new vaccination mandates. This means that many of our seniors experience considerably long wait times to receive a friendly visitor, and some unfortunately give up eventually.
Our seniors are among the most vulnerable in our community, and the pandemic has been understandably challenging for them. Many have fallen ill with the virus, while others have lived in fear of the virus, refusing to go out or have carers or
visitors coming into their homes. All of us have been impacted through extensive lockdowns, when several missed out on visits from family and loved ones.
Now we are coming out on the other side, we are beginning to see the effects of isolation on our community. Loneliness continues to be an ongoing pandemic for many of us. When we are isolated, without a person or a tribe, we lose a sense of purpose,
leading to health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
Volunteers are changing lonely seniors’ lives every day
Recently we have been calling our existing volunteers and senior clients to check in on their wellbeing and to see how their visits are going. We hear of heartwarming stories where lives have been changed by activities so seemingly simple. Even
accounts from clients who were initially so anxious to receive a visitor, now waiting at the gate, eager for their volunteer’s arrival. Some have taken up new hobbies, discovered new places, learnt a musical instrument, but most importantly
they have made a new friend, a special connection, despite the challenges. Volunteers themselves have experienced improved self-confidence, a sense of renewed purpose and fulfillment, stating they get just as much out of their friendship as
Ideally, our volunteers commit to 6 months of weekly to fortnightly visits. These consist of calling in for a cuppa and a chat, playing games, watching the TV, cooking a meal together or going off for an outing, weather and time permitting. The
program makes a significant difference in the lives of our lonely seniors, giving them something to look forward to each week, which helps them feel connected to the world again.