I got involved as a volunteer about 5 years ago, having responded to a radio appeal on how lonely many older people were. I thought I could host tea parties as we live in a bungalow so no stairs to climb, [and I enjoy eating cake!], and I could also be a driver as one afternoon a month didn't seem a big commitment. Of course as I saw what a difference these outings made to so many older people I got more involved as a group co-ordinator and then 2 or 3 years ago as the Edinburgh Area Organiser. My role [still as a volunteer] is to make sure our existing Edinburgh groups are supported and that guests or volunteers who leave or move are replaced quickly with new people. I also help to start new groups, recruiting volunteers and identifying older people through referral organisations or following up enquiries from older people or their families/friends. We have now grown from 3 to 8 groups.
The best part of my role is going to meet all the potential new volunteers and older guests in Edinburgh who apply or are referred to us, and talking to them about what we do. I then see them taking part in a group usually a few months later and having a lot of fun...yes, the volunteers and the older guests. It really does make a huge difference to us all. As we say in our publicity, "Life fills us with stories, stories fill us with life". We volunteers love hearing all the amazing stories of all our older guests, once they start telling us about their lives, travels, families, jobs, war experiences, Edinburgh years ago...
We not only have tea parties in people's homes but some companies, hotels and the Lord Provost have also hosted tea parties for some or all of our groups. We were very pleased when a group of Edinburgh University student volunteers hosted a tea party for 3 groups in March, and are really looking forward to the June tea party hosted by the PhD researchers for this project. One lady of 93 told me after the student volunteer party that she felt rejuvenated by talking to all the students!
Contact the Elderly is very keen to develop links with Universities to promote inter-generational links and friendships between older guests and students or staff at tea parties, bring university campuses and local communities into closer contact, provide an enriching volunteering scheme that fits into university life and help students' CV and career prospects.
Anne from Contact the Elderly. Visit Contact the Elderly's website here.