If you have some extra time and are looking for ways to give back to your community, volunteering with seniors is always a great option and many seniors centres and seniors programs are always looking for a little extra help.
When it comes to volunteering with seniors, there are a few different areas you can volunteer in – depending on what works best and what interests you the most.
Most cities and towns will have a senior’s centre. The main focus of this centre and organization is to help seniors get out of their homes and socialize with other seniors in their community.
Most of these centres will organize activities likes board games in the afternoons, dancing and fitness classes, or even just social evenings out. These centres often offer all of these activities to seniors at little to no cost, so they don’t have huge budgets for paying a lot of employees.
Knowing this, they often rely on volunteers to help them set up activities and organize what’s going on in a day. Senior centres are often open and doing things during the daytime so if you have a full-time job this kind of volunteering may not work for you.
There could be times where they need help over the weekend, so you can definitely make it work in your schedule and see what is the best option for you.
Volunteering at nursing, or retirement homes is a little different than working with seniors at a seniors centre. At nursing home, the residents are most likely not as mobile or independent as you’d find at a senior’s centre, so they have different needs.
Sometimes nursing homes need help with getting meals to residents, and helping them eat. Other times they might ask for help with moving residents from their rooms to an activity or event happening in the home. If you want to, they might also help with setting up events and putting things away when they are over.
As residents are often much more ill once they get to a nursing home it can be difficult to see and volunteer with people at this age of their life. With this in mind, it’s very important to make sure you’re prepared for what you might see when you’re volunteering.
You might also like Elderly Living at Home vs Nursing Home
Where To Start
Well, the most important part is that you’ve decided to volunteer and give your time to a good cause in your community. So now that you know this is what you want to do, you can start searching for the right place to spend your time.
Certain nursing homes may fit better with your personality or the kind of volunteering you want to do. For example, if residents living with Alzheimer’s or dementia hold a special place for you then you may want to find a nursing home that has a program dedicated to people living with this illness.
What You’ll Need Before You Begin
Most organizations that are dealing with seniors will require their volunteers to do some screening. Typically they will interview you to get a feel for how you will fit into the community, but you will also probably need to complete either a police background check or a check for dealing with vulnerable persons.
Unfortunately, some people will volunteer to take advantage of seniors and not because they want to give back to their communities. For this reason, the people who organize events want to make sure that their residents or participants are going to be in good hands and the volunteers are there for the right reasons.
There could be an expense to getting these background checks, and you will likely have to take care of the cost yourself as these kinds of homes and organizations do not have the budget to do this for every person who wants to volunteer.
You might also like How To Tell Your Parents They Have To Stay in a Nursing Home
Special Skills and Interests
As mentioned, there could be senior’s centres or nursing homes where they have programs specifically devoted to special needs of seniors. Oftentimes, nursing homes will need people who have skills in doing manicures, pedicures and hairstyling as the residents often are unable to do this for themselves. It also helps residents feel a little better when they’re made up.
If you are looking to put your skill set to use and you could help in a certain area, let the volunteer organizer know how you’d like to help and they can determine if they need your help in that area.
On the other hand, do you have certain areas that interest you? Activities like gardening or church/spiritual services are very popular among residents of nursing homes so if these areas interest you then you could definitely be of help to the nursing homes.
Additionally, if you speak another language or your family has a specific ethnic background this can be a major help to nursing homes. Oftentimes, the staff in a nursing home will only speak English and so they are not always able to full communicate with the residents if they speak another language as their native language.
If you can speak other languages, visiting the residents to have conversations in their native tongue can make them feel a little more connected to the community and less lonely. This will definitely give them a little piece of home, even if it’s only for a few hours.
Likewise, if you know that there are certain areas of volunteering that you don’t want to work in or cannot handle you should let them know that so they don’t ask you for your help with those things.
You might also like Where Can Seniors Volunteer?
How Much Time Do You Want to Volunteer?
If you are working a full-time job you may feel like you don’t really have much time to give – and that’s ok. If you only have a couple hours to give on a Saturday then that’s completely fine.
Volunteering, in any amount, really benefits your community so your efforts are going to be appreciated. Take the time to figure out how much you can really, genuinely give in terms of volunteering will help the organizers you’re working with figure out how much help they can rely on.
You might also like Gift Ideas for Nursing Home Staff
Visiting With the Residents
Many times seniors feel isolated and cut-off from their friends and family members – especially if they have moved into a nursing home and don’t see them very often.
Having someone come in and chat with them, visit with them or even read to them is going to make a world of difference for the residents. Seniors often struggle the most with socializing and spending time with others, and going into a nursing home can make them feel even more cut off from others.
Spend an afternoon just having tea and chatting with the residents, or reading to them (if this is something they enjoy) and watch how you make a significant difference in their lives.
Is Training Involved?
There could be some training involved in volunteering, depending on where you decide to volunteer. The nursing home or senior centre will tell you what you need to know, and if there are any specific areas of training you need to know about. This could take a few hours, over the course of multiple days depending on the schedule.
The training will probably include tours of the facilities so you know where to find things, and the area of the nursing home or centre you are going to be working in.
You might also like Gift Ideas for Nursing Home Staff
Benefits of Volunteering
When people volunteer in their communities, they often feel like they’re really helping give back to people who need it and really appreciate it.
Seniors are an especially vulnerable group of people and they often miss their friends and families as they can’t always visit them as often as they’d like. Certain times of year – like Christmas and New Years – can be an especially lonely time so going to just visit, sit with them and spend time you will probably notice how much they really enjoy it.
When you see the enjoyment someone else gets out the time you’re spending with them, you will feel it yourself. Giving back always feels good and makes you feel empowered to do more in your community. While volunteering should not be about what you, specifically, get out of it, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the good feelings you get from it.
If you’re interested in volunteering with seniors in your community, you can start by searching for nursing homes or senior’s centres around you and reach out to them to see if they need help. It’s important to remember that you are realistic about the amount of time you can give to your community and know that whatever you can give is going to be appreciated.
Working with seniors can be one of the most rewarding kinds of volunteering as they love chatting and sharing their life stories, which can be absolutely amazing. Start today by reaching out to various organizations within your community to find a spot you can spend your time!