Volunteering as an intervention for dementia

Volunteering ones time, energy and talent to organisations can be a valuable service to not only those we volunteer for, but for ourselves. Studies have shown the financial and time costs associated with volunteering and the personal, organisational, client and community benefits generated by the volunteer activity are significant, as well as a number of financial and time costs associated with volunteering. However, overall, the main beneficiary of the volunteering is the volunteer. I’ve been volunteering most of my life, and have always found this to be true.

As an intervention for dementia, volunteering can be seen as a positive way to continue to thrive in our own community. When we can no longer do paid work, we can still contribute positively, redefining ourselves and providing an enhanced sense of purpose by doing things for others. Advocacy is also a form of volunteering, and many of the Alzheimer’s organisations around the world are encouraging people with dementia to get involved.

Volunteering as an intervention for dementia has a number of positive outcomes for people with dementia, and reduces many of the negative ones. My list below is not prescriptive nor exhaustive. Please add your own ideas to.

  • positive replacement for paid employment
  • helps us to feel and stay physically and mentally engaged
  • less of an emotional burden on others
  • still feel valued
  • increases self worth
  • increases social inclusion
  • reduces stigma
  • reduces social isolation
  • helping us maintain our skill sets
  • it can help us keep fit, depending on the volunteering activity
  • encourages new friendships
  • improve cognitive function
  • improve the quality of life
  • less support required from service providers
  • may delay institutionalisation
  • reduces carer strain
  • reduce psychological illness e.g. depression, therefore
  • increasing wellness, and
  • perceived longevity

The images below are from the Big Lunch yesterday, an organisation I have been very positively volunteering in for many years.  Our fundraising goal of $40,000 may not be reached, but our raffle alone raised half that amount, so we are all very happy about that! Sitting back, watching the 300 people eat fabulous food prepared by some of our top chefs, as well as raise some money and enjoy themselves, not only helps me overcome the D-factor of being in crowds, but raises my sense of creativity, value, purpose and fun enormously.

This year we had a group called The Singing Magpies perform, which is made up of professional singers and a group of marginalised people, all singing and enjoying themselves, as well as bringing us joy too, another beautiful example of social inclusion.

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