Six Places to Volunteer to Combat Loneliness
If you’re interested in intergenerational connections, helping to fight loneliness, and forming meaningful relationships in the process, here are several charities where you can volunteer your time in a number of different ways.
Age Scotland is the leading charity representing older people in Scotland. They are looking for volunteers to be Community Connectors, who help elderly people get in touch with community services, activities, groups and events in their local area. They also need fundraising volunteers for everything from local bucket collections to large-scale events like this year’s Festive Fundraiser at Edinburgh Waverley Station. (They are an affiliate of Age UK, which also has Northern Ireland and UK-wide branches.)
LifeCare Edinburgh also assists isolated older people and those living with dementia. Volunteer to play games at a dementia day club, help an older person get out to the park, or work in the LifeCare community cafe. They also need help with fundraising events.
There are plenty of opportunities across the UK as well. The Royal Voluntary Service supports the ageing population with a wide variety of practical initiatives, from social clubs for elderly people to volunteer work in hospitals. You could find your fit in the Home Library Service, which delivers books to people who can’t get to their library, or as a Community Companion visiting someone in their home. You could help someone adjust to coming home after a stay in hospital, volunteer on the wards to chat or play games with patients, or support hospital staff by providing a Meet and Greet service for visitors and outpatients. There’s an especially wide range of ways to get involved here.
For a more remote type of work, volunteering for The Silver Line, a helpline for older people, is a great option. Being a Telephone Friend and making weekly scheduled calls to an elderly person could lead to lasting bonds and friendship. You can also train to volunteer on the main helpline, which runs 24/7, or conduct outreach in your local area to raise awareness of The Silver Line’s services.
For those in Ireland, there are some great opportunities to get involved with organisatons like ALONE, which works to provide a range of support systems that allow elderly people to keep living in their own homes. You can contribute to ALONE as a Befriending Volunteer, which means you’ll be paired with an elderly person and visit them weekly, providing companionship and some basic practical support. Or if you’re not in a position to visit in person, you could spend 2 hours a week as a Telephone Befriending and Support Volunteer to keep in regular contact and make sure your befriendee is safe and well.
If you’re based in the USA, you’ve probably heard of Meals on Wheels, a charity devoted to bringing food to elderly people with limited mobility. The charity invites people to volunteer their time and “do lunch” — that is, spend their lunch hour dropping off meals and checking in on people in need. Many a friendship has been forged through this routine, and both volunteers and recipients speak about how much these regular visits and chats mean to them.
No matter where you are, have a look at organisations like this and find what might be right for you. It’s not always a huge time commitment either; many of these charities will work with you and your availability to find a volunteering opportunity that’s feasible for you. It could be as little as half an hour a week, but the rewards could be major. Let’s be companions to one another and fight loneliness in whatever way we can.