When it comes to volunteering, it’s hard to know who benefits more: the person donating the time or those who are on the receiving end.
After all, research has proven that volunteering provides mental and physical health benefits for those doing the helping. The Corporation for National and Community Volunteering has found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who don’t volunteer at all.
This is good news for Eventide Senior Living Communities, where more than 400 people volunteer each year.
“Volunteers are a huge asset to us,” says Kaley Harms, Director of Life Enrichment. “They bring an energy to our facilities that you can’t match.”
Volunteers serve in a variety of ways: one-one visits with residents, leading worship services, assisting with activities, gardening and more. Regardless of the role, volunteers provide a connection to the outside community, Harms says. That’s especially important for seniors who can’t easily leave their residence.
“We find that most of our residents improve their quality of life when they move here,” Harms says. “They socialize more, and volunteers are a part of that.”
Volunteers can devote a few hours each week, a few hours each month or can be available on an “as needed” basis. They share coffee and conversation or take a walk outside. Some volunteers help residents with computers and other technology.
Other opportunities include:
- assisting with activities and special events
- escorting residents to salon and wellness center
- assisting in the office
- performing special music
- leading educational programs
- accompanying to worship services
- bringing pets to visit
Students as young as 11 can volunteer at Eventide. These junior volunteers often help by transporting residents from their room to an activity area or serving coffee. Church confirmation groups, school groups and youth organizations can work with Eventide to find an appropriate time and activity where lots of students can volunteer.
The senior living community also works closely with the area’s colleges. Some courses and programs require students to volunteer, Harms says. This requirement helps to bridge a generation gap and encourages seniors to learn from younger generations, and younger generations to learn from seniors.
Unless an individual is strongly committed to volunteering in a certain way, Harms encourages new volunteers to start by being matched to a resident. Regular one-on-one visits can be scheduled at any time, making it a flexible option. Once a volunteer is comfortable in the setting, he or she can choose something else based on interest or skill.
“The important thing is to know you’re making a difference in the lives of others. Our residents look forward to volunteers coming. They appreciate the connection,” Harms says. “And most of our volunteers say that they get a lot more than they give.”
To volunteer at Eventide, contact Kaley Harms at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 291-2258. Or you can sign up online at: http://eventide.org/ways-to-give/volunteer/