By Maureen Murphy
Now that the holidays are over, many of us once again have some time on our hands. If you’re looking for a rewarding way to spend that time, consider volunteering at a senior living community.
For the record, it’s not just about handing out bingo cards anymore!
Volunteering in any capacity is a great way to give back to the community and help make a difference in people’s lives. Working with older adults is especially fulfilling and can be as beneficial to the volunteer as it is to those on the receiving end of your generosity.
Here are a few of the ins and outs you may be wondering about:
What’s required before I can start volunteering?
Each community has its own procedures, but at St. Ann’s, you must be at least 16 years old; complete a volunteer form (available on our website); come in for an interview; and complete a confidential health screening. In accordance with New York state regulations, you must be fully vaccinated (including the COVID-19 vaccine). Once those steps are complete, you’ll attend an orientation session and be ready to join the good-hearted people who make up our volunteer pool.
How much time do I have to commit to
Whether you’d like to volunteer on a weekly basis or a more flexible schedule, we welcome your support. Some people come in for a set number of hours a week to do a specific assignment; others come in less frequently and help wherever they’re needed. We welcome both (and everything in between) and will work with you to find a role that fits your availability. Remember: Any amount of time you can spare will mean a lot to those you spend it with.
What will I be doing
Again, we’ll work with you to find the right fit. There are plenty of opportunities at every senior community, and you won’t be forced into anything you’re not comfortable with.
At St. Ann’s, for example, volunteers assist our pastoral care department with transporting elders to and from mass, distributing Holy Communion, and providing companionship to those who could use an extra smile.
If you’re a book lover, consider reading to elders either individually or in small groups. (St. Ann’s has just begun its reading program and is looking for readers.) You can choose books that are special to you and present them in your own unique way.
Have a particular skill or talent you’d like to share? We can definitely make that work. Maybe you’re an artist or craft person, sing or play an instrument, or have an interesting hobby you’d like to demonstrate…the possibilities are as wide open as your personal experience. If you’re enthusiastic about it, our elders will enjoy hearing from you.
And if helping out at bingo is what you’re interested in, that’s fine too!
What if I want to play a more substantial role?
That, of course, is also very welcome. Check with the volunteer office of the senior community of your choice—there are always opportunities for those who want to make a greater commitment. At St. Ann’s, for example, we’re seeking volunteers to “adopt” a household. With support from staff, you’ll get to know the elders who live there and join them in planning positive, fulfilling experiences for the household. As communities like ours move away from large-scale events toward more personalized experiences for our elders, this is of growing importance.
I’ve worked in volunteer services for many years and am still astounded by what I gain from being with our elders every day.
I’ve worked in volunteer services for many years and am still astounded by what I gain from being with our elders every day. I’m humbled when they talk of their lives, the hardships they’ve endured, and the love and happiness they’ve embraced. Simply put, it expands my awareness of what it means to be human and the connections we all share.
The people who live in our senior communities want to continue learning, growing, and experiencing all the richness life has to offer. Become a volunteer and help make that happen.