Introducing Wayne, a former mechanical engineer who discovered his passion for volunteering with seniors while staying briefly at a cancer lodge. It was during this time that he forged meaningful connections with patients who would inspire him to give back and change his world.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, such as your profession, hobbies, or interests?
I’m a retired mechanical engineer with my last five working years spent managing three engineering workshops and a marine slipway in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. This was both challenging and rewarding, and I also dedicated 60% of my time to teaching as per the government’s visa requirements. My hobbies include fishing, camping, gardening, and reading.
Can you describe your reasons that inspired you to choose volunteering with older seniors facing social isolation or loneliness?
The motivation behind wanting to spend time with seniors came about while spending six weeks with my brother in a cancer lodge in New Zealand, where he was undergoing treatment.
I found that I had a lot of free time between treatments and subsequently spoke with various inhouse patients who were also going through similar procedures. As time progressed, I formed a bond with many patients sharing meals, making them cups of tea, and brightening their day with my antics and jokes.
It was during this experience that I told my brother I would like to try and do something similar once back in Australia.
How did you first learn about In Great Company and how was your experience joining the program?
Not long after arriving back home I noticed an article on Facebook (so it must be real) about becoming a volunteer. I then sent off an enquiry regarding this and an email reply came back the next morning arranging a suitable phone interview time. I found the whole process to be very easy, professional, caring, and courteous.
Could you provide details about the senior(s) you spend time with and the activities you typically engage in during your visits?
As a result, I now get to enjoy some quality time with three amazing new friends:
With Merle (86), a whiz at cards and board games where she invariably beats me!
Gene (86) is another senior I get to spend a few hours with every Monday afternoon. Some of the things I do for Gene include repotting plants, moving furniture, minor plumbing repairs, and discussing our working careers. Gene and I both love our fishing and many a time is spent discussing all things piscatorial.
Robert (96) is a lovely senior gentleman that I spend time with on a Wednesday morning. I usually pick him up from his home and accompany him to a variety of coffee shops, even though he does not drink coffee! We talk about so many different intellectual and intriguing subjects, normally over a cup of lemon ginger tea soaked up with scones jam and cream.
What makes the friendship you’ve formed with your senior client(s) particularly meaningful or unique for you?
At first, I found volunteering a little out of my comfort zone, although now some months on I look forward to the time spent with these seniors. I feel that I am getting an insight and appreciation of people more senior than myself and the appreciation I get in return for being with them.
Have there been any significant challenges or obstacles you’ve faced during your journey as a volunteer with them?
At this point I have not faced any obstacles with these seniors although I feel equipped to deal with this if they arise.
Have you gained any insights about yourself or others through your volunteer experience?
I have met Robert’s wife, his son and daughter and have spent time talking with them.
Many of my friends were surprised when they found out that I volunteer to spend my time with seniors, although when I inform them of the benefits along with the bonds formed, they realise why I do it.
Who would have thought that less than a year ago that my world would change the way it has, I guess I can thank my brother for this.
Do you have any words of encouragement or advice to those interested in joining this program?
My advice is if you have a few spare hours, then look at volunteering with seniors and try and brighten up someone’s day. I can only hope that when my time comes somebody will do the same for me.