Just what would we do without volunteers – the army of unsung heroes who keep the wheels of society turning? Especially given that volunteers aged 55-74 give 1.4 billion hours of their time each year to help others.
Not only do they save the health and social care system millions, they improve the lives of countless millions everyday. And the real beauty of this is that everyone benefits, not just the recipient, but the giver too.
There is a common theme amongst the people I come into contact with each week, thousands over the last few years, is that needing to be needed is vital. Retirement can be a gift, yet day after day of waking up without a purpose is not a dream, it’s a nightmare of feeling unwanted, disengaged and isolated.
So it was an absolute joy to be invited to ‘Unleashing the power of Volunteering’ by Royal Voluntary Service and be inspired by their work and aims for the future.
RVS (formerly Women’s Voluntary Services) aim to reach 2 million people by 2023, both those who volunteer and the people who participate in their services.
Often know for their trolley services in hospitals, RVS are tackling the wider needs of our time to create better lives for older people. Along with their transport services, Home from Hospital and Home Library Services, they are working to end loneliness through practical support and companionship.
We at Move it or Lose it! are thrilled to be helping in some small way by training staff and volunteers at RVS along with providing opportunities for socialising in our community exercise classes. With a 12 month pilot underway, results are already looking positive.
The exercises need to be easy to follow and fun to do especially for frailer participants, yet it is remarkable to see how even those with mobility problems and multiple long-term health conditions can join in. With each exercise related to an activity of daily living, the participants can really relate to why they need to do a particular exercise such as putting on shoes and socks or reaching up into cupboards.
Along with all the benefits to physical health, each session brings with it the chance to meet, talk, make friends and care for others. Over one million people say they are often or always lonely which often leads to depression, illness, falls and a higher risk of death. In fact loneliness is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
Keeping people active engaged and interacting has huge benefits and shouldn’t be seen as something that is ‘nice to have’ but is essential as this is actually a key driver for healthy ageing.
Move it or Lose it! reaches thousands of people each week, each class brings people together who are frail and those who are active and able. A natural support network develops with an arm for support or a invitation to go for a coffee, a friendly welcome to a query about how the grandchildren are; it is these simple gestures that make such a big difference.
We want to help RVS to recruit more volunteers from our classes – those who have so much to give in terms of time and friendship. We also want to give the befrienders who go to peoples’ homes the opportunity to help get their clients to a class wherever possible.
By joining together we can ensure we celebrate older age and ensure people enjoy, not endure their later life.
If you would like to help us in our mission by becoming an instructor view our FABS Training Programme or contact the charities directly:
Barnett Anne et al Community based group exercise improves balance and reduces falls in at risk older people: a randomised controlled trial Age and ageing 32,4 (2003).