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Volunteering… a booster for older people

4 August 2015

Another of the important chapters in our recently published ‘Ageing in the UK’ report is the one that covers volunteering. It found that volunteering by older people is a powerful way to build strong social ties and alleviate loneliness. It can boost self-esteem and feelings of self-worth and has great health benefits, both mental and physical.

Andy Griffin

Andy Griffin

We know that many of the Big Lottery Fund’s projects are run by volunteers, use volunteering roles as a way of involving participants, and rely on the support of volunteers to keep going. One such project is Action on Hearing Loss in Northumberland where Andy Griffin, a retired deputy head of a special needs school, became a volunteer following his own experience of hearing difficulties.

Andy never set out to volunteer. He wanted to find a lip reading class near him, as he’d read about the difference that this skill can make to people who have a hearing loss.

“I was conscious of withdrawing from the company of others, a feature of hearing loss, which can and does lead to isolation.”

For Andy, volunteering has meant making best use of his experience to fight for improvements for people in local communities.  He delivers presentations to break down preconceptions, for example, talking about famous and inspirational deaf people and explaining the facts and figures around hearing loss.

“It’s very rewarding to make a contribution. No matter what your level of skill, there’ll always be a task you can do that will help someone. I feel better in myself than staying at home. As well as helping others, you help yourself, and feel better for it.”

And he has advice for people considering a volunteer role.

“Don’t overreach yourself. Make it part of your lifestyle, don’t take on too much, and keep a balance between helping others and looking after yourself.”

Andy seems to have the balance just right. Outside of his volunteer role he lectures, is a published author and a local historian. As a volunteer, he has visited Buckingham Palace to pick up a regional volunteer award.

Ageing in the UK report front cover“The award is very nice, but that’s not the end goal. What matters is I’ve instigated something; volunteers can do that, can change things.”

We know our projects need more volunteers like Andy; our research found the percentage of people volunteering is more or less the same as it was five years ago, and that women are more likely to volunteer than men.

This report recommends that the Big Lottery Fund should do more to encourage and facilitate older men to volunteer in their communities, due to their under representation. What do you think the Big Lottery Fund could be doing to encourage volunteering, particularly among older men? Leave us your great ideas below or get in touch with us via the Big Lottery Fund Twitter account.

 

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