Therese volunteers two afternoons a week to chat to residents and write down their life stories. These stories are kept within their personal file, providing background information for Seasons and Envigor staff who may be getting to know the resident, sparking conversation and ensuring that any care that is delivered is in line with their wishes and personal values.
I moved into our house over the road from Seasons Caloundra and got talking to one of the staff about volunteering. I had been looking for a way I could volunteer to support and visit people in retirement villages who didn’t get many visitors and may enjoy someone new to talk to. The thought of people living their later years feeling lonely and forgotten has always moved me and I am in a position now I’m retired to help in some way.
I worked as an organisational change manager for the past 20 years, and before that an HR Manager. So questioning, listening, showing understanding and empathy are some of the skills that I thought would be useful. I am also good at writing notes of exactly what people say, while still chatting with them and leading them onto disclosing more about themselves.
It’s all new information to me, so it’s always interesting. Each person’s story is unique and told with their own personality. I enjoy giving them the opportunity to be heard and to have someone enjoy hearing about their remarkable lives. I feel good that they have had a chance to spend some time reminiscing about their lives. I feel truly lucky that I get to listen to their stories. After my couple of hours each Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon I come home feeling re-energised and with a determination to try and be like these positive people when I am their age.
I love trying to connect personally with the residents in some way. For example, if they were born in the same town I was, if they used to play tennis or where they have travelled to or lived. They seem to enjoy that – I can see them light up a bit and it becomes more of a chat, rather than a question and answer.
I believe they enjoy the process when they get into it – one memory leads on to another that they hadn’t thought about in a long time. The majority of people I have spent time with have seemed to genuinely enjoy the 45 minutes or so that it takes – it’s always me who says we’re finished. Never the resident!
Yes, to live life to the fullest while you can. And if you want to do something, just do it.