Earlier this year there was a Beachcomber editorial about how volunteerism can provide happiness. “The more people volunteered, the happier they were,” according to a London School of Economics study.
Career opportunities can also come from volunteering. The benefits citied by the study also include “burning belly fat, possibly preventing Alzheimer’s disease and lengthening life.” As a recent retiree, I know how important it is to feel like you are needed, to have a purpose in your life, to have a reason to get out of bed.
Before retiring, I signed up for volunteering once a week for a fairly new island program called Vashon Elder Care. It is a program that provides arts, activities and respite care for those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s’ disease and brain injuries.
My own mental health was of high concern when I retired. Several people told me I would end up going back to work, because I liked my job and wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I have since met others who have retired and gone back to work because they were bored at home, and even felt depressed. But I was ready for more freedom and felt I was done with the “workforce.” Volunteering for the Vashon Elder Care program is the most meaningful day of the week for me. This respite program provides vital rest for the caregivers and includes compassion and stimulation for the clients.
Some of them barely talk. Most of them are within 10 years of my age.
They could be me. The small joys of seeing one of them smile, or especially sing, or even dance, lights up my life and theirs. Sometimes even a gentle touch brings a warm smile, or having them read to us, giving them a sense of purpose.
There’s a core group of volunteers who participate at least once or twice a month. We have made new friends and become a family.
For me, it’s as though I have come full circle. When my family moved to the island 24 years ago, I couldn’t find a job (teaching), so I volunteered at the old Adult Day Program at the Lutheran church. I loved it and eventually ended up supplying in-home elder care for many years. It not only gave me a purpose, but also started a whole new career for me. And now, after providing in-home elder care and working 10 years at Vashon Pharmacy, I have returned to the Lutheran church and the new program there.
The Vashon Elder Care Respite program is in need of more volunteers, especially since they extended the program to two days a week. I encourage folks who have even just a little bit of extra time on their hands to join our extended family and learn what it is like to share your gifts with others in need. Our volunteer coordinator is on vacation until the first of November; until then, contact Leslie Perry at 206-463-0992 or Scperry310@msn.com, or Ann Scafe 206-832-4543 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a website: vashoneldercare.com.
— Lornie Walker has recently retired from Vashon Pharmacy, is a former teacher and is the author of “Argyle Park.”