The ageing UK population means that we now have many more elderly people in society. While their friends and family and establishments like care homes and nursing homes are there to provide care, often volunteers are needed to provide additional support - especially for those who don’t have many relatives or loved ones around them.
Volunteers play a key role in the care of elderly people, helping charity organisations to extend their reach and impact in more communities, as well as giving each individual person a better quality of life. Sometimes just being a good listener is enough to make someone lonely feel better, as well as helping out with small tasks they find difficult.
If you’re interested in volunteering to help elderly people but aren’t sure where to start, read on for some information on the different types of volunteer schemes available.
Use our directory to find a care home near you.
Research by Age UK has found 1.4 million older adults in the UK experience loneliness often. Loneliness is a major issue that can impact your mental and physical wellbeing. There are a number of factors that can cause loneliness in older generations, including: living alone, difficulty moving around independently, feeling isolated or being distant from neighbours and local communities.
With the cost of living crisis more adults are at risk of experiencing social isolation than ever before, it’s important to look after the older generations - and volunteering with the elderly is the perfect way to do so. By checking in on your loved ones or neighbours, and volunteering to support older adults in the UK, you can help to combat loneliness across the UK and bring joy to someone’s day!
Volunteering with the elderly provides a heap of wellbeing benefits, both for yourself and older generations.
Volunteering – particularly with older adults - is a great way to boost your health, reduce stress and broaden your support network by making new friends. There are also lots of lessons of wisdom to learn from older generations - and you may be surprised by the exciting stories many older generations have to share of their younger years.
Befriending older adults helps them feel connected to others and provides crucial support for good wellbeing as you age. From coffee mornings, social groups, or even becoming pen pals, there are lots of ways you can volunteer to support older adults and make a positive difference.
Unfortunately in the UK, many elderly people are lonely. According to Age UK, more than two million in England over the age of 75 are living alone - and over one million people say that they go for a month or more without speaking to a loved one or neighbour. We need to do more to combat loneliness in the elderly, as social isolation can have serious negative effects on mental health and wellbeing.
For those who live alone but have trouble getting out and about, Silver Connects provides support over the phone, delivered by volunteers. A free national service, Silver Connects takes referrals through the Age UK Advice Line or The Silver Line Helpline for people who need to make local connections.
As a volunteer for Silver Connects, you can research social activities and help those who may be feeling lonely or isolated to attend them, organise transport for someone with mobility problems, connect people with tradesmen to help maintain their home, make calls on elderly people’s behalf and source information for those who are starting to need additional care services. Silver Connects volunteers have a real impact on older people’s lives, boosting their happiness and wellbeing.
Dial 2 Drive, or D2D, is a Kent-based community transport scheme for those unable to use public transport services on their own. These people might be elderly and frail, they may have a certain health condition or illness, or they might be disabled. Volunteer drivers use their own vehicles to collect and drop clients off at appointments, from hospital and doctor’s appointments to the hairdressers, shops or senior lunch clubs.
Schemes like D2D really help elderly people to get out and about and make the most of life. Remember, that trip to the hairdresser might be that person’s only outing for the day - and spending some time chatting with you while you drive is a key source of social interaction for them.
You can take on as many or as few jobs as you like. It’s important to note that all drivers must be insured and complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before being accepted onto the scheme.
If you’d like to make a difference to the lives of elderly people, volunteering for a charity like Age UK is a great way to do it. These are just a few of the many ways you can help:
Befriending an older adult
Driving people to an activity
Collecting patients from hospital and taking them home
Cooking a meal at an activity centre
Leading a fitness group
Meeting at a café for a drink
Going to visit local places
Doing shopping for that person, or helping them shop
Supporting the person with technology such as online shopping
Age UK run several programmes to encourage older and younger generations to spend time together, including reading activities with primary school children and musical activities with toddlers and babies. As well as meeting new people, making friends and learning new skills, you have a chance to demonstrate your own skills and share them with others.
When you sign up, you will meet with a volunteer coordinator to go through the process. For every older adult on the scheme, a risk assessment must be carried out and an action plan must be made. You will then be matched up with an older adult on the scheme based on your joint hobbies and interests and your first visit or call will be arranged.
If you have care homes or nursing homes in your local area, volunteering to work at one is a fantastic way to get some work experience and make a difference to someone’s quality of life. Care home volunteers cover all sorts of care home tasks, from helping organise and run activities, to running gardening clubs, becoming a befriender and going shopping for residents.
To volunteer at a care home, the following skills and qualities are useful to have:
Friendly and trustworthy
Good communication and listening skills
Organisation and time management
Dedicated, caring and passionate
Basic literacy and numeracy
If this sounds like you, why not get in touch with a few care homes and ask whether they need volunteers!
Currently, there are 9 million people experiencing loneliness across the UK - and many older and vulnerable adults are at risk of experiencing social isolation, especially as we face a cost of living crisis. You can volunteer to be a companion to an older adult through schemes like the Campaign to End Loneliness. Lots of local councils have their own information on how to provide volunteer support for older people too.
Companionship care is a common way for independent older adults to enjoy extra interaction with a friendly face.
Get in touch with a nearby care home to find out whether they are looking for volunteers. You will be partnered with an elderly person to visit regularly - this could involve playing cards or board games, watching a film or enjoying a cup of tea and some home baking. Visits don’t have to last for hours, but simply spending a brief period of time in someone’s company will fill your elderly person’s day with sunshine.
As well as volunteering to help elderly people, you can also get involved with charity campaign work. Organisations like Age UK campaign for a number of different elderly-related causes, including heating bills, care support, pensions and benefits and prescription services.
Campaign volunteers don’t usually need to have had any previous experience in campaigning work, but an interest in the work is key - and you may receive training as part of the job. Campaign work is varied, but you might be doing anything from testing research methods and reviewing websites or leaflets, to thinking of new things to campaign about and creating emails and campaign guides.
Hopefully you now have all the information you need to get started on volunteering. If you have questions, most charity and volunteer groups will have online resources, volunteer handbooks or contact details you can use to get in touch.
If you’re passionate about helping the elderly to have a better life, it’s easy to get involved. Not only will you make new friends and develop your skills and experience, but you’ll also know that you’re really making a positive difference to an elderly person’s life - and what could be better than that?