This week is National Volunteer Week, which is an ideal time for us to be launching Step 3 of Let's 5 Loneliness: Volunteering or Lending a Hand. It is only because of volunteers that we can create and deliver impactful programs that tackle the extreme loneliness felt by 1 in 4 Australians.
In this special week we are celebrating all of the incredible people that make time in their busy lives to give their time freely to support us in our work, including those who volunteer at the Virtual Social Centre (VSC), run by our founding organisation, Feros Care.
The Virtual Social Centre is an online community that allows seniors who are isolated because of disability, geographic location, lack of transport, or lack of social confidence for example to come together virtually and enjoy activities with others, facilitated by volunteers. These include chat groups, virtual events, book clubs, exercise classes, and even interactive virtual tours and all result in important friendships and social connections.
The volunteers are absolutely critical for this program, sharing their passion, skills and experiences with the seniors, creating group connections at the same time. Broadcasting from our studio or their own homes, these volunteers create a safe space for connection and encourage seniors to make new friendships.
While volunteering to host a regular current affairs program on the platform, Tony Winwood discovered the experience was just as enjoyable for the volunteers as it was for the seniors.
"I really enjoyed doing it, and the more I did it, the more I enjoyed just going through the process," Mr Winwood said.
"Some people were almost isolated to just their rooms, and it's just nice to think that you can have a bit of a chat with them and give them something to enrol in that they can look forward to each week."
Tony is confident everyone can get involved with the program too.
"I'm hopeless with technology, so I thought it would be interesting to broadcast at home, but once Feros Care got me set-up at home, it was so simple that anyone could do it."
It is the support of people like Tony at the Virtual Senior Centre that help us change hundreds of lives across Australia by helping isolated seniors make friends with others just like them.
"Feros' Virtual Seniors Centre, more than anything, has made me feel a wanted, valuable member of society instead of feeling useless and that there was nothing left for me," A 78-year-old participant said.
"Before the VSC, I was feeling very isolated and lonely. The Virtual Social Centre has been a lifeline," another added.
"I can attend a virtual church group, chat with friends whenever I want, and see the world through the remote-streaming sessions. There is so much to do on the VSC."
The VSC was designed in response to the alarming statistic that one-in-five older Australians feel lonely, and the platform is going a long way towards tackling this epidemic.
70% of participants reported an improvement in socialisation
35% made new friendships through the VSC
68% of participants actively participated in up to nine sessions per month on the VSC
70% of participants have been part of the VSC for one year or more
94% of participants reportedly recommended the service to other seniors
How can you help?
At Be Someone For Someone, we believe that no one should feel lonely, and programs like the Virtual Social Centre can't exist without the generosity of people who have a passion or skill and want to use it to help others make lasting friendships. This support helps us continue to connect otherwise isolated Australians.
There are often opportunities for additional volunteers to run interesting activities and sessions though the Virtual Social Centre so if you feel you have something you want to share that would be of interest to our seniors, then we would love to hear from you. Contact us at [email protected] and we’ll put you in touch with the right people.
Lending a hand is just one step in our "Let's 5 Loneliness" campaign. You can visit the website for more information on this initiative, and for some fun, simple and creative ideas to get involved.