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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6 thoughts on “Volunteering as an intervention for dementia

  1. What a great post Kate, and i so agree with everything you have said. What does the Big Lunch organisation do in Australia? I have never heard of it before. I think volunteering is very important, and always wonderful to give back-volunteering is even more beneficial, when it is to a charity you love, like Dementia, or age care for me. I love the aspect of volunteering and fundraising, and hope to do more of it when i get older. There are lots of people who are retired who do volunteering as a pastime. Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself. The beauty about volunteering is, although that you are not in paid work, you can still contribute somehow, by doing something for someone else. Volunteering certainly does make people have a purpose in life. Everyone who is a volunteer is really nice(generally). All wonderful reasons, you have listed above, Kate, to volunteer, and yes-new friendships are certainly formed through volunteering, and volunteering certainly does keep you active, and out of trouble. Volunteering certainly does lead to prolonged life. My parents used to volunteer when they were young, but struggle to do it now with work, and busy lives, but will do it when they retire. However, at my primary school, they helped out at events like the primary school fun run, or school trips etc. My parents have always told me the importance of giving back, and i so agree with them. Keep up the volunteering Kate, and may you have many more blissful times volunteering and many more wonderful memories, and good on you!👍😊

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    • The Big Issue is a magazine that people who are homeless can apply to sell, and is my favourite homeless charity. One of their mottos is “A hand up, not a hand out” which I love. I’ve been volunteering for them since 2008.

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