Read how Joyce, 64, found a new purpose and made friends by volunteering with OPAL (Older People Active Lives).
Three years ago, I returned from living overseas, retired from work and moved house all in the space of a year. After settling down, I found myself with time on my hands and the dawning realization that I was in danger of becoming quite lonely and isolated. But I have family and friends, I am active, healthy and have my own car. How much worse it must be for those who have served our communities and now find themselves, through no fault of their own, stuck in the house all day with no one to speak to and no social interaction.
All my adult life has been spent working with young people and I have also been a volunteer in several different organizations, always working with children or teenagers. Now I realised that I might be able to help with the generation closer to my own age. I wanted to “do something” and I wanted to give back to a community that has supported me over the years.
I was first attracted to Cyrenians at an information stand in Tesco’s and arranged to have information sent out. After a short informal interview and the filling in of a few forms, I was invited to first of several training courses. These were very interesting, covering a range of topics such as befriending, looking out for trips and hazards in the home, dementia awareness and diabetes. These courses also gave us the opportunity to meet and chat with other volunteers, hear how they got involved and what their role was.
Before long, I was helping at a fortnightly social group, “Nibble and Natter” which is great fun. We have a chat, a cup of tea, sometimes a speaker or entertainment, a quiz and before we know it, it’s time to go home.
I had this idea that I would be dealing with “old people” almost as if “they” were a different species. In fact, they are people just like me!
Now, I regularly drive three different people to social groups, sometimes I stay, other times I just drop off and collect later. I also help out at various groups throughout West Lothian, on different days of the week as required and as my schedule allows.
The activities are really good fun, from quoits to bocce to dominoes, the quizzes are highly competitive and we all have a great afternoon. I know that my passengers always seem more alert and talkative on the way home and for myself, I feel great afterwards! There’s a sense of doing something worthwhile, but not in a saintly way.
What better way to serve a community and have a good time?
I would recommend OPAL Cyrenians to anyone who has a few hours spare, whether as an attendee or as a volunteer.
1st May 2018