With three grown-up children, Judi found herself with a few too many blank spaces on her schedule. In Great Company has filled the void perfectly. In her chat with us, Judi gives us great insights into what she loves about giving back to the community,
and about the small things that have the biggest impact.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I joined In Great Company as a volunteer in September last year, having reached a new stage of life. My oldest children have suddenly morphed into young adults, and they’ve moved on to the workforce and university whilst my youngest is nearing the
end of high school. They need me less now and it’s been quite an abrupt change for me to adjust to.
I have a health professional background, but I only do a small amount of paid work these days. I enjoy plenty of recreational activities but the blank spaces on my schedule were feeling like gaping holes.
How did you get involved with In Great Company?
I have always loved volunteering for the community. It gives me a sense of purpose.
When I came across a job ad by in Great Company and learnt they were looking for volunteers, I immediately applied. I knew this would be a great extension to my current voluntary roles and it would plug the gap that was previously taken up by me haplessly
running around after my children.
What attracted you to the cause or why do you volunteer with seniors facing loneliness and isolation?
I’ve always volunteered in various capacities: at the local tennis club, at my children’s schools and delivering food relief for a local charity. I’ve always found it fulfilling to give something back to my community.
I’ve worked for the regional home library service over the past few years, borrowing library books and visiting elderly people in their homes. My clients’ limited mobility has highlighted how reduced community access can significantly lower
quality of life. Although on the surface, a role may seem inconsequential, small things can have quite an impact.
Did anything or anyone in your life play a role in providing inspiration for your involvement with lonely seniors?
My parents have been another significant influence. They’ve been unusually lucky. Nearing 90 years old, they have supported each other through 65 years of marriage. They have four adult children and two of them live nearby so they can provide support,
if required. Miraculously, it’s been rarely needed so far. They both drive, which helps them remain actively involved in their community. They’re extremely fortunate to be in such good health.
I can only imagine how challenging it would be if they didn’t have family nearby if they couldn’t drive or if one of them passed away. Losing a spouse, being isolated from family support, or losing a driver’s license would be very isolating
and life-changing experiences for anyone. I think volunteer companion roles might be particularly helpful for people faced with these sudden changes.
Who do you visit and what do your visits involve?
I visit Charlie once a week. He lives alone and no longer drives. His family live outside the Geelong area. Charlie’s a self-contained and independent person and he’s travelled quite a bit so not being able to drive has been a challenging
adjustment for him.
We go out for breakfast once a week then have a drive somewhere and a walk. We’ve walked around the Geelong Waterfront, The Botanic Gardens, Buckley Falls and the Barwon River. We’ve had drives to places like Queenscliff, Barwon Heads, Torquay,
and Pt Addis where we check out the water views. I really enjoy our outings.
Can you tell us what makes this friendship special for you?
Charlie immigrated to Australia from Malta as a newly married 18-year-old, and he worked for decades providing food relief to some of the most disadvantaged members of society. It’s nice to think that in a small way, society can help to re-pay him
for all that hard work. He’s very socially aware, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent so he’s been a fascinating person for me to spend time with. He’s often expressed gratitude for this program, but the benefits go both ways.
Do you have a story shared with your senior client that really moves you?
Charlie has been slowly building up the distance he can walk, and I think he’s a bit surprised by his steady improvement. It’s great that he’s still able to get out and about and challenge himself. His fitness has steadily improved over
the last 6-7 months, and I’m really pleased for him.
I have been joking with Charlie that I am training him for a marathon. We worked out that he walked about 800m one day with 3 pit stops and he managed that quite well. The first time I took him out, he only managed about 200m – the length of the new Spirit
of Tassie pier. So, he didn’t think he’d be able to walk that distance again, but he did!
We recently took his dog Buddy for a walk too. Buddy is almost 13 years old and he’s an excellent companion for Charlie so it would be great to help keep him fit and well.
Have you learnt anything about yourself or others through this experience?
I’ve found In Great Company to be a professional and supportive organisation and it’s clear there’s a substantial need for this work. With the aging population, it can only grow larger.
Providing regular companionship can make a big difference. Everyone needs to keep active and have regular things to look forward to. It’s not only the clients who benefit from this program though. Volunteers also gain friendship, and they stand
to learn a lot from the life experience and wisdom of the participants. Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose and adds to my overall life satisfaction, ultimately making me a happier, healthier person.
Do you have a message to share with others looking to become a friendly visitor volunteer?
I’d strongly encourage anyone considering it to get involved. It will enrich their lives as well as provide a valuable community service. It’s a sure sign of a quality community programme when everyone involved, participants and volunteers
alike, stand to benefit.