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A cuppa and a good chat: Volunteer Visitors making a difference

Tags: Ageing well

An older and younger man walking and talking in a park

What do you get when you pair a 30 something with an aged care resident? A cure for loneliness.

Wesley Mission Queensland runs the volunteer-led Australian Government-funded Aged Care Volunteer Visitor Scheme (ACVVS) in its aged care communities to help reduce the impacts of isolation and boredom amongst older Australians.

In celebration of National Volunteer Week (20-26 May), Wesley Mission Queensland (WMQ) is proud to shine a spotlight on the transformative impact of the Scheme.

Over a third of Australian adults volunteered between 2002 and 2010, and since then, rates of volunteering have steadily declined, with an even larger drop-off in volunteering rates to 24.8 per cent since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Wesley Mission Queensland has bucked this trend, finding that the number of people volunteering has stayed relatively the same; it is how they engage has changed.

Volunteer Relations Manager Nicole Mujdrica said ‘with the average age of our volunteer network now being 49 years old, we understand that people wish to give back in ad hoc opportunities which suit their lifestyle. They also seek to be engaged in a number of short-term volunteer opportunities to grow their portfolio and ‘try before they buy’.

The ACVVS scheme is just one volunteering option WMQ offers to suite the varied needs of volunteers, requiring only an hour a week or fortnight to share a cuppa and have a chat with the aim of providing companionship for older people who may be socially isolated, lonely, or who don't have the opportunity to leave their homes very often.

Home care worker celebrating a residents birthday

While the ACVVS combats social isolation and loneliness among older Australians, it also offers a profound sense of purpose to volunteers from diverse walks of life. At the heart of the ACVVS are dedicated volunteers like Lisa Bellamywells and Mitchell Ward, whose commitment and compassion show that regardless of your age, interests or work schedule, volunteering can be flexible and fulfill you just as much as the residents you visit.

For Lisa, a 52-year-old mother balancing part-time work and family responsibilities, volunteering became a way to value her own good health and fill her inability to see her own grandparents. "Volunteering and spending time with Maureen [aged care resident] has really put things in perspective for me. It helps me to be more present and value my good health and age now because I know it doesn’t last forever," Lisa said.

"Maureen and I have become very close the last two years, we love to play dominos and have a good gossip together. My grandma is 102 years old and lives in England, so, visiting Maureen helps me feel less guilty about not being able to spend time with my own grandma”, Lisa said.

Mitchell, a 32-year-old former support worker, joined the Scheme in February 2024, driven by his love of helping people and giving back to community.

"I love spending time with the oldies, making them feel comfortable and to brighten their day it makes me feel good giving back to the community," said Mitchell.

Becoming a Volunteer Visitor offers a flexible opportunity for individuals of all ages to make a meaningful difference in the lives of older Australians. A weekly or fortnightly visit to have a cuppa and have a chat goes a long way towards helping a person feel cared about.

"I know most people my age are really focused on their career. But this scheme is very flexible with days, you can choose a weekend or one afternoon you’re available,” Mitchell said.

"It’s only an hour out of your week that makes a massive difference to the residents' entire week – I hope someone is compassionate enough to spend an hour with me in my older years," Lisa said.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, Wesley Mission Queensland invites individuals of all ages to volunteer and drive positive change in their communities.

For more information on how to get involved, more information can be found at the Volunteer Visitor Program webpage.