June is #monthofcommunity which incorporates Volunteers Week and Loneliness Awareness Week. One of SCCCC most important services, is our volunteer befriending scheme under our Good Neighbour Scheme banner. Our volunteers are matched with an older person on our register who they then regularly visit (or telephone, as is currently the case due to Covid restrictions).
It’s a much needed service, as a report by Sheffield Joint Strategic Needs Assessment says, “research from various studies (based on surveys) record between 6% and 13% of older people reporting they are often or always lonely. This would suggest between 5,520 and 11,960 older people in Sheffield. Other research estimates there are approximately 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK. This would equate to 12,000 older people in Sheffield.” And the 2011 census showed almost 29,000 people in Sheffield over the age of 65 lived alone.
That’s a lot of people feeling lonely, and the pandemic exacerbated this with charities, like SCCCC, having had to restrict service provision during the lockdowns. As a result people became even more isolated than before and are now struggling to reintegrate as society reopens. The fear generated during the lockdowns has lingered and many older adults remain afraid to mix in public again, meaning that despite the easing of restrictions, a sizeable minority of older adults are finding life just as tough as during the height of lockdown.
Fiona Carragher, the director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society says in an article in The Guardian: “The extremely damaging side-effects of lockdown - long periods of isolation, a loss of routine and social interaction - have caused significant mental health as well as physical health deterioration for people with dementia, many of them just giving up on life, fading away”.
In an attempt to address the situation locally, SCCCC recently undertook a massive publicity campaign, with the help of The Sheffield Star and BBC Radio Sheffield, to recruit more volunteers for the Good Neighbour Scheme. The campaign resulted in a 29% increase in volunteers since January 2021 taking our total to 175 people.
Our Good Neighbour scheme covers
- Regular or occasional friendly (social) visits.
- Holiday check short term for the duration of a relative’s holiday.
- Re-arranging furniture to enable greater mobility.
- Occasional sitting to give a carer time to attend an appointment
- Escorting to hospital appointments Telephone support, a friendly call on a regular basis.
- Pen pal Scheme
The Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering is one of those rare cases in life that result in a ‘win win’ scenario for both the volunteer AND the recipient of the volunteer’s time/service.
At first glance it seems obvious that the person (or cause) in receipt of a volunteer’s time/service will be the chief benefactor…in our befriending service for instance, the lonely older adult is helped to feel less isolated. What may not be quite so apparent is just how much becoming a volunteer can help the individual doing the volunteering!
- Community: As this blog started by pointing out that it’s #monthofcommunity it seems appropriate to note that becoming a volunteer can help with one’s sense of community! The very act of helping someone (or something) in your local area will strengthen and deepen your bond with your local community. You will find new friends, find new interests, or develop existing ones, and you’ll feel you are ‘giving something back’.
- Mental Health: Helping others is proven to aid mental health, it develops a sense of purpose, improves self-esteem, combats depression, and makes you happy. And this is just the benefit to the volunteer! The person on the receiving end will also see an improvement in their mental health because they feel valued, respected and ‘not forgotten’.
- Physical Health: Becoming mentally healthy impacts on physical health too. Getting out and about (when we can!) and being more active as you volunteer will also help with your physical health…you feel better when you feel happy and volunteering certainly ups the happiness quotient in life.
- Career boost: If you’re still working, becoming a volunteer could actually improve your career prospects. Sounds crazy? Well, how often do you see on a job application, ‘list any voluntary activities or services’? Volunteering in a field outside of your actual job experience can also help you to develop new skills which can be incorporated into your daily life and work.
- It could help you live longer: Yes, volunteering can apparently have a positive effect on your longevity! Research published in APA journal Health Psychology says that volunteers who cited altruistic reasons for volunteering (i.e. they simply wanted to help) lived longer than those in the same research project who either didn’t volunteer at all, or who volunteered for mainly selfish reasons (i.e. helping themselves was the prime driver in becoming a volunteer).
How can you help?
Start by contacting SCCCC. We are always looking for new volunteers!
Email Volunteers@scccc.co.uk or telephone 0114 2505293 for details.
Also, check out these websites for listings of volunteer opportunities: