You already know how important it is to have a diverse range of life experiences. They’ve shaped you into the person you are now. Imagine the wealth of stories, lessons, and experiences your elders can impart to you. When volunteering to work closely with seniors, many individuals find they benefit just as much—and learn a lot in the process!
From reminiscing to building new experiences, we’ve assembled some ideas for different ways to lend a hand, a listening ear, or your skills to elders as part of a good friendly visitor volunteer program. Remember that simply spending your time and having a discussion can sometimes be the most valuable gift you can give.
What Makes A Good Friendly Visitor Program Volunteer?
Friendly visits are a meaningful approach to connect with people who aren’t in your usual social circle and make a difference in their life. Friendly visitors provide companionship to those who are at risk of being lonely. To have a successful friendly visit, you must have a lot of patience and enjoy interacting with new people on a regular basis. Before engaging in any volunteer work, keep the following attributes or crucial considerations in mind:
Self-control: The elderly have grown accustomed to a system of norms, and anyone who wishes to assist them must be calm and controlled. The volunteer must take his or her responsibilities and time seriously. Many changes are difficult for the elderly, therefore if you take on a volunteering job for a period of time, you must be committed to it.
Good Communication Skills: Conversations with the elderly can be enjoyable and educational, but one must improve his or her communication skills in order to converse with them. Empathy, softness, sensitivity, openness, and confidence are all required. The volunteer must comprehend the elder’s difficulties from their perspective.
Patience: Patience is one of the greatest traits that anyone who wishes to volunteer with the elderly should have. Oftentimes, elderly individuals can be very stuck in their ways so be sure you are flexible and patient with their routines and the things that they enjoy doing. If you are paired up with an elderly friend who simply enjoys sitting and watching their favorite TV shows or movies, be patient with them and enjoy the experience while engaging in some light conversation about some of their favorite moments in the show.
Compassion: Being caring and compassionate are also important traits for good volunteers to have. Compassion toward an elderly friend speaks waves about your personal character and can truly inspire them to open up to you because they trust you and know that you genuinely care about them and enjoy being a part of their life.
Ideas for Volunteering
Ask yourself what you can learn from your older companion, whether you’re in a nursing facility, or at a neighbor’s or a loved one’s house—many of their experiences may surprise you! While they’ve probably collected stories throughout the years, it might be difficult to know what questions to ask in order to start a conversation. Here are some ideas to encourage people to reminisce and retell nice memories.
Find Out What Their Passion is: Does your friend enjoy cooking? Inquire about a favorite family recipe. Do they enjoy singing or drawing? Request that they demonstrate. Find out what they’re enthusiastic about, and chances are they’ll be happy to talk about it.
Find Out About Their Skills: If you don’t already know what kind of job your new friend had, inquire about their most important lessons or memorable situations. Don’t forget to inquire about their hobbies and abilities outside of work, such as sewing, woodworking, and writing. Make a request that they teach you a few things.
Keep a Journal of Your Memories: On your next visit, bring a photo album, scrapbook, or diary, and urge your friend to sit with you and compile their memories. Narratives, photos, subtitles, doodles, and more can all be used. In no time, you’ll be turning their oral histories into a documented history book!
Create Some Art Together: Make wall art for their room out of pages from your memory book. Simply photocopy the nicest pages with images and captions and hang them up so your friend can reminisce about pleasant times all the time. Plus, the brightly colored pages and photographs will light up any space.
Ready To Take the Next Steps?
Our goal at Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia is to help people age well in the places and communities they love, while also providing rewarding possibilities such as lifelong learning, volunteer work, healthy living, and community connections. If you are ready to begin the process of volunteering in our Friendly Visitor Program, please contact us today to get started!