Enhancing Engagement Through Volunteers

In a time when we are all experiencing frustrations about being short staffed, we should consider engaging healthy, older adults living in our communities who have the time and interest to help others.  Many retired individuals are more than willing to spend a few hours a week with frail or cognitively impaired elders to enhance their quality of life.  I’m not suggesting that volunteers provide care, but they can greatly enhance someone’s life by building a friendship.  

Consider asking volunteers to: 

  • be a regular conversation partner for a person who is often alone in his or her room. 
  • teach others a new game or skill. 
  • serve as a walking or exercise buddy. 
  • join someone for a meal once a week. 
  • share food and history from their culture. 
  • lead a small group activity, such as flower arranging, quilting, knitting, or woodworking.
  • lead a singing or musical instrument group. 

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind: 

  • Complete a personal history and interests assessment with your volunteers so you can learn about their unique skills and partner them with other elders who are a good match.  
  • Create an orientation for volunteers that includes information about dementia, effective communication, and infection control. 
  • Ask them to commit to a short weekly visit for at least three months at a time so there is consistency for everyone and they won’t feel overwhelmed by being asked to do too much. 
  • Provide all of the supplies needed for the activity in which they will be engaged. 
  • Provide volunteers with a large print name tag and make them feel appreciated.  A smile and a thank you go a long way! 

We would love to hear about the innovative ways that you use volunteers in your community.  Please send us your ideas to be included in future newsletters. 

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