Having an active volunteer network is a huge benefit for senior living communities. But when you’re a smaller organization and don’t have a designated volunteer coordinator, it may seem like a burden to initiate such projects. Even more, when you have the opportunity to host volunteers, getting them involved in impactful projects can be difficult.
We’ve put together 10 tips to help you tackle your volunteer challenges:
1. Recruit family members:
You might not realize it, but you have a volunteer pool already at your fingertips: family! The residents’ families can be your most dedicated and accessible volunteers. Even for the families who aren’t local, knowing that there’s an activity that they can jump into with their loved one during their next visit might be the highlight of their days.
2. Start a match program.
Similar to Big Brother Big Sister’s matching program, pairing a volunteer with a specific resident can help form strong bonds. A volunteer fills out an application, and your staff can help make matches based on similar interests, career parallels, or personalities. The goal is a supportive friendship and to have fun.
3. Intergenerational programs
Intergenerational interaction benefits both young people and seniors, and reports show that these types of relationships aren’t just nice, but necessary. The value flows both ways: it brings a sense of purpose, strengthens emotional and social intelligence, and makes both seniors and young people happier.
4. Four-legged volunteers
Pet therapy has become increasingly popular, and it’s not just because animals are so cute. Research shows that just 15-minutes of bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Even more, an animal can help pull a resident out of his or her shell and can be soothing for those with Alzheimer’s. Puppy party!
5. Application on site
Most senior living living communities require a volunteer application. Encourage them to fill it out on-site so that you or your front desk manager can get a first-person perspective on their interactions with residents. Give them a tour of the community and introduce them to residents to increase their excitement and make sure it’s a good fit.
6. Show impact
Seeing the impact of your volunteers’ hours makes it all worth it. Ensure your volunteers understand the influence they have on residents and know that their time and presence is valued.
7. Organize old photos
Get ready for a trip down memory lane. Once the photos come out, so do the anecdotes of family vacations, college days, and military adventures. Residents enjoy sharing favorite life stories, and volunteers get to know the senior on a deeper level.
8. Listening and talking
On that note, sometimes the best thing a volunteer can do is show interest in the resident and engage in meaningful conversation. In fact, 73% of volunteer time is spent in companionship or visits. A Legacy Preservation Program offers a framework for these conversations and enables the volunteer to feel confident in asking introspective questions.
9. Get crafty
Arts and crafts are a wonderful activity that volunteers of all ages can participate in. Have a themed craft according to the season or occasion. No Van Goghs needed here, just a little creativity and teamwork (which also have positive effects on the brain!).
10. Say thank you
Remember, your volunteers are there because they’re volunteering their time and energy to help you and your residents. Show your appreciation with a birthday card, an annual volunteer appreciation lunch, and ask their ideas for volunteer activities. They’ll feel valued and motivated to keep coming back.
It’s About the Relationship
Honored war veterans. Survivors of the Great Depression. Grandmothers who know how to cook the perfect spaghetti sauce. These people have lived the history we learned about in books—and these are the people your volunteers have the opportunity to build relationships with. Try these tips to make for a smooth sailing volunteer program. Your residents and volunteers will thank you for it.
TSOLife (The Story Of Life) focuses on preserving legacy and passing down life stories for future generations. We help senior living communities leverage technology to capture, preserve, and share the life stories of the residents in their care. It fostering purposeful engagement and providing a precious keepsake for the families.