Go on, volunteer, it could help you live longer

Posted on 14th May 2018

It has been said that if all the people volunteering in Ireland were to walk away, the country would grind to a halt.

This is National Volunteering Week, (May 14 – May 20) the one week in the year when Volunteer Ireland encourage everyone to give volunteering a try. This year’s theme is Volunteering Builds Better Communities on the basis that when people give back locally,  they feel closer to their neighbourhood, their neighbours and their community at large.

Third Age, Ireland’s not-for-profit organisation celebrating its 30 year anniversary this year, knows all about volunteering.  All Third Age programmes are delivered by older volunteers, all are designed to benefit the local community – and, as a bonus, to benefit the giver as well.

Third Age has over 3,200 volunteers working variously as listeners, tutors, IT facilitators and befrienders, benefitting thousands of people annually throughout Ireland.  Helena Scanlan is a volunteer on SeniorLine, Ireland’s only national confidential listening service for older people. “When I saw that ad for SeniorLine, I was at a good stage in my life. My life is good. Myself and my husband are healthy. Six months ago, we had our first grandchild, a source of great joy in our home.  I feel at this stage I have a little time to give, “she says.

No stranger to volunteering, Helena gives her time every three weeks in the Daffodil Centre at St Luke’s Hospital in Rathgar, Dublin, meeting patients and families, and providing leaflets and information. She is a member of her parish choir. and as well as providing music and liturgy for the church, the choir perform outside, fundraising for a number of charities. Helena is a prime mover in the development of the SeniorLine choir that sings on Grafton Street each Christmas.

She has been a SeniorLine volunteer for four years. “A lot of callers contact for a chat, possibly through loneliness. They want to talk about ordinary things, every day occurrences; they may want to reminisce about the past.  When callers phone with a specific problem, I have the chance to use the skills I learnt in training, not offer them advice or a solution, let them talk as much as they need which can help them find their own way.  Such calls can be very satisfying, and I don’t come home feeling worried or sad. I feel, I hope, I may have helped,” she says.

Older people who volunteer can enjoy a high rate of well-being according to The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).   A large body of literature documents the positive benefits of volunteerism in terms of increased psychological well-being. Voluntary work can be a way to feel useful and fulfilled, and there is good evidence that volunteering can actually help you live longer and enjoy life more. TILDA found that older volunteers do a wide range of good works including working in charity shops, visiting people in hospital, driving people to medical appointments, parish work, fund-raising, sport coaching and more.

For organisations interested in recruiting volunteers, Volunteer Ireland say you need to have clear policies and procedures in place in terms of volunteer role, to provide training if needed, and to know how to value your volunteers.

SeniorLine Freefone 1800 80 45 91 open 10am-10pm every day of the year

For more information, or to interview, contact Anne Dempsey, Communications Manager, Third Age 087-7450721

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