Be A Hero
Give of Your Time and Talents to the Senior Communities in Your Area
Volunteering in a local nursing home may not generate a paycheck, but it is certainly a priceless opportunity.
Nursing homes greatly rely on volunteers to interact with the residents. Activities in which volunteers assist are a huge part of making the seniors who live there truly feel at home. When you volunteer within the senior community, you will soon discover that when one person gives, two people receive. Interacting with the residents in nursing homes or within other senior communities gives them someone to talk to and spend time with. This brings immense joy to their lives. However, it also gives the volunteers a genuinely rewarding feeling.
The opportunities for what you can do when volunteering with seniors is vast. It is more than just painting nails, doing hair or dabbling in arts and crafts. Be creative. Bring your talents to the table. Do you like to sing or play a musical instrument? How are your dancing skills? Put on a fun show with a variety of your favorite songs and dig up a few classic hits the seniors may recall. Even just the simple act of having a conversation with a senior helps in more ways than you can imagine. Loneliness and isolation can play an unfortunately huge part in their day.
“People in nursing homes are no different than the people in our own homes,” expressed Esther Talley, Administrator at Providence Place, a nursing and rehabilitative facility affiliated with Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. “These are people who have lived long and interesting lives, with so many stories to tell. Sadly, they are often dismissed simply because they are old. It is amazing what we learn from them about the lives they have lived.”
When volunteers interact with seniors, the door to a more active social experience is opened. Among the top consequences of being socially isolated include loneliness, depression and limited physical activity. Older adults may soon become disengaged with the world around them. When older adults have the chance to interact and engage with others on a regular basis, it not only improves their mental health and outlook but can also have positive benefits on their physical health and may even improve their brain power. Further, when seniors feel recognized, appreciated, valued and understood, they can acquire a new sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. When one volunteers within senior community settings, that person soon becomes an integral part of the circle of influence of the residents. This, in turn, can greatly improve the quality of life for everyone involved, not just those who live in the nursing homes.
“What’s in it for me?” (Be prepared! The benefits are incredible!)
When you have a conversation with an older adult, you open the door to learning more. Seniors have lived long lives and have some incredible stories to tell. They can talk about historic events, as they have lived through many of them. The knowledge they have is invaluable. Whether they have loved ones who visit them or not, the time volunteers spend with seniors is priceless. For some of them, this may be the only time they receive one-on-one interaction.
Although volunteering does not reap a paycheck, it does allow you to gain experience in working with people and is something you can put on a resume. Potential employers appreciate job candidates with a history of giving back to their community.
If you have ever considered volunteering in a nursing home, Talley urges you to do so without hesitation.
“When volunteers visit and offer their time and their talents, it enhances the residents’ lives,” Talley noted. “I also believe that volunteering in general is a good thing to do overall. It helps instill a sense of gratitude and appreciation for what you have. Besides, one day you will be on the receiving end of such services.”
Talley also emphasized how volunteers can mitigate the day-to-day pressure on nursing home staff.
“A staff member may care for eight or nine people during a shift,” explained Talley. “While they would love to chat and share with the residents, they simply do not have the time to do so. Their focus is on providing the needs of the residents – and they do so admirably – but it is a benefit to have volunteers who can help support our staff and engage with the residents to a greater degree.”
Don’t let these reasons stop you from brightening an older adult’s day…
Talley indicated there are a few primary reasons as to why individuals might resist exploring volunteer opportunities.
“People might say ‘I don’t know anyone there’ or ‘I don’t have family there,’” she said. “You don’t need a personal connection to someone living in the nursing home to become involved. We rely heavily on volunteers to meet those social and emotional needs of our residents.”
For some people, the fear of the unknown may keep them from becoming involved. They may not be acquainted with the nursing home or may have had a past experience visiting one that was unpleasant. Also, the fear of aging may prevent someone from the desire to volunteer.
“There is that inherent fear of aging, and visiting a nursing home may make you think of getting older. The truth for all of us, however, is that we all get older, no matter how hard we fight against it,” said Talley.
Talley urged anyone interested in volunteering at Providence Place to call Jordan Frost at 913-596-4195 for more information.
Get started today!
Nursing homes are in communities everywhere. They are in your community. Be a part of that community and ask about the volunteer process. While it’s rare to get turned down, if you do, just call another one. There are plenty of communities who are eager to open their doors to you.
Talley further emphasized, “If you have a skill or a talent, you should be using it. There is a home for that talent within these senior communities. Use it to bless the lives of others. You have an ability to brighten someone’s day in some way.”
If you have a desire to give back and would love to work within the senior communities, many organizations would be happy to have your services. To find some places where your services might be needed, contact any of the following organizations: Volunteers of America, Elder Helpers, AARP, Meals on Wheels and National Council on Aging.
Sources: seniorliving.org, secondwindmovement.com