Mike is retired, enjoys the outdoors and rows three times a week with Twickenham Rowing Club. He also enjoys travelling with his wife and has done some epic cycle rides, including from Florida - Texas and from Istanbul - London.
Mike began volunteering for Embracing Age in 2015. He was looking on the Richmond Volunteering website for a flexible role that involved helping others, and volunteering in a care home seemed to fit the bill.
He spends his time at the care home visiting three to four people who he has got to know, as well as saying 'hello' to other residents he might see while he is there.
He chats with residents and particularly enjoys taking them out for walks in a wheelchair, or even just around the home if the weather isn’t looking good.
Mike says that getting out is so important for residents – having that change of scenery makes a big difference to them and he has seen them transform, as their mood lifts and they start interacting more.
After 20 years of working in the City, Helen called time on her career in 2013 and decided to look for new challenges closer to home. "I wanted to keep my brain busy and give something back, so studied for a Masters in Charity Management transferring my business background to the charity sector," Helen says.
Helen currently does some consulting work for charities in the area of governance, strategic planning and operational management, but was keen to spend some time doing something more hands on. "I met Tina on the Masters course at St. Mary’s University and thought her idea to set up a befriending charity for local care homes was a brilliant one," she explains. "I have always loved all-things theatrical, and have performed in musicals and plays since childhood, so Tina thought I’d be the perfect fit at Brinsworth House [the Royal Variety Charity’s care home in Twickenham]."
From the minute she walked in the door, Helen knew she would love being a small part of the community there. "Here reside actors, directors, conductors, musicians, dancers, radio and TV producers, film artists, writers, and so on - a plethora of creative types now facing the challenges of forming a community together in later life.
"I started helping at Friday afternoon bingo, then running a sing-along session on a Friday morning encouraging non-singers to give it a go and ex-pros to rediscover the joys of singing without striving for perfection," Helen says.
"Sometimes, if no-one feels like singing, I just play the piano or sit and chat. The highlight for me has been the launch of residents’ shows, giving anyone who feels able the chance to sing, read, dance, perform or direct in a low key performance for the staff and other residents.
"This has given many residents a sense of purpose and achievement, as well as improved relationships with the other residents. It’s wonderful to get a glimpse at the talents that many residents have and to help provide them with the opportunity to show them off again, to do what they love doing."
Helen has also seen how music can unlock what for many is the very closed world of dementia. Sometimes even those who struggle to speak or engage in what is happening around them come to life as she and the residents sing together, joining in or singing something they remember.
There have been sad moments as inevitably friends pass on, but also lots of laughter and fascinating conversations. "It’s lovely to be able to feel that you are making a real difference to someone, even if it is just for a moment," Helen reflects. "I’d like to thank all the staff and residents at Brinsworth for making my volunteering experience such a positive one!"
Jude has been volunteering for Embracing Age since 2017 and visits a family-run care home in Hampton, connecting with numerous residents rather than just one.
She featured in our newsletter last summer and wrote:
“Each person is an individual with their own identity and humour. If you take the time, each has their own stories and life experience…We all, at times, can get a little ground down by life. I visit the care home and invariably I come back feeling ‘uplifted’. This may surprise a lot of people but we have a lot of fun and laughter and I find the residents very engaging.”
Jude lights up the room with her energy and it’s wonderful to see how the residents come to life as she engages with them.
Jude and her husband Tim also walked Hadrian’s Wall last summer with a small team who raised over £5,000 for Embracing Age. When Jude isn’t walking or volunteering she runs “Move it or lose it” exercise classes for older people.
Migle moved to the UK from Lithuania in 2012, finding work in a mental health charity project as an assistant services manager. After settling here, she began to seek ways to broaden her social network.
“The idea of finding some new friends and sharing good moments with other people; learning different things and listening to their stories really appealed,” Migle recalls, so she decided to get involved in voluntary charity work. “I didn’t have any specific charity in mind. I applied to a few, and Embracing Age came back to me."
“I was quite anxious to start as I never had experience of caring for elderly,” Migle recalls, “but listening to other people’s stories has always interested me, and the elderly have lots of them! On meeting the care home manager, I knew that things would be fine.”
However, Migle couldn’t have anticipated the difference her time would make when she first met Ros, a former junior school teacher, at the care home. Ros taught for 38 years, before retiring in 1997.
“I’d been at Alexander House for at least 10 years before receiving visits from Migle,” Ros explains. “It's made a great deal of difference – there aren’t many people here I can have a chat with, and Migle's good at making conversation.”
Not long after her visits began, Migle discovered Ros wanted to learn some computer skills. “I was given a laptop and had started experimenting on it,” Ros says. “Donna, the home manager, suggested doing a newsletter.”
“I'm not an expert,” Migle adds, “but I knew enough of the basics and began to teach her. Together, we started the Alexander House Newsletter!”
“Migle is very good,” Ros remarks. “She makes me do a lot of it and doesn't take over if I'm making slow progress.”
“All of the residents are really enjoying reading it,” Migle reflects. “We add lots of pictures and useful information about what's happening at the care home – its bringing joy to a lot of people helping them feel more connected.”
The relationship is two-way, and they both enjoy a game of scrabble, while Ros has taught Migle how to do quilling. Together they make quilled cards that Ros sells to care home visitors, donating the profits to charity.
A year after her first visit, Migle feels right at home, still enjoying every moment. “Ros always looks forward to my visits and plans our meetings. Volunteers only need to spare an hour a week, but the benefits are enormous!”
“I've enjoyed everything with Migle,” smiles Ros. “It's lovely having her here and we do a variety of things together - today we're looking forward to going out for an ice cream!”