I started volunteering through Embracing Age in January of this year and was placed in a care home just round the corner from my house.
I came across Embracing Age as I was looking for volunteering opportunities in my local area, specifically relating to the elderly. I don’t yet have the commitments of my own family and finding myself with spare time at weekends I was looking for something I could do to use that time more wholesomely. I’ve always had a fondness for the elderly, and living almost four hours from my only remaining grandparent I had missed the knowledge and humour he could impart with such modesty. Above all, I want to do what I can to help appease the unjust nature of old age, and try to make the final stage of residents’ lives a little better, where I can.
I visit the care home every Saturday – unless life takes me out of London on the odd occasion – where there is a coffee morning from 11am. In my first few months I sat and chatted to anyone (who would listen!). It became apparent very quickly there was a strong breadth of characters and needs; from those who had become physically frail and unable to live alone any longer to those in the later stages of dementia. It has truly been a joy getting to know a number of the residents and hearing so many incredibly stories of their lives. At the risk of sounding naïve, I feel I have never quite appreciated how comfortable modern life is until I heard about the upbringing of many of the residents at the home. To sit and talk to a heart surgeon to my left and an ice skating fanatic to my right whilst making a tea for a gentleman who was evacuated to my hometown - there was so much to discuss! I learn something new each and every week and for that I feel really grateful. At the same time, I chat about my life and what’s going on around me and hope I impart some sort of modern-day wisdom of my own. A highlight for me was, at the request of one of the residents, going into town to buy three mangos for his son’s birthday, and seeing the smile on his face when I returned with the ripest, juiciest mangos he had ever seen. He spent the rest of the morning telling anyone who would listen that I was the girl who’d made his son’s birthday.
More recently I have been spending a lot of my time with one particular resident. She has a lovely family living very locally, of which I have met one and heard a lot about the rest, but still seems to appreciate my visits each Saturday morning. Her ability to recall song lyrics, evacuation memories and all sorts of facts and trivia never fails to surprise me. I feel we have formed a lovely bond and I am so glad to have met her. I still see and chat to the other residents, sometimes taking a walk in the garden or catching up over a coffee, and despite the difficulty I find in seeing their deterioration or pain at times, it is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.