Health and Wellbeing

Council’s volunteer scheme is improving quality of life for its residents

Posted on: 22 January 2013

A new scheme by Devon County Council is linking care home residents with volunteers who are able to spend time and share experiences.

Residents say the scheme is a great way of rekindling old hobbies and interests, while the Council says it’s all part of helping people to lead more fulfilling lives.

Thirty volunteers have so far signed up to the scheme, but the Council is hoping more will come forward.

A local dance group in Exeter is entertaining residents in the Council’s care homes across the city, demonstrating their routines in wheelchairs and encouraging residents to be more active.

Natasha Cole set up the Isca Wheelchair Dance Group in 2010. The group meet in Exeter every Tuesday evening to practice new routines.

“Just because someone may not be as mobile as others, it doesn’t mean that they can’t do things,” says Natasha. “I volunteered our group to be involved with Council’s residential homes because not only do we perform dance routines, we also try to involve the people we’re performing too. In our case, residents have welcomed us and really enjoy watching what we do and getting involved as much as they can.”

Another Exeter volunteer, Andrea Quinn, is giving up her time to help residents at her local residential care home. She’s helping residents get involved with activities held at the home.

“I wanted to give something back to the elderly,” she says. “If the activities are getting people motivated, it’s keeping them mobile and stimulating them mentally.”

Andrea also helped out at a recent visit by the Isca Wheelchair Dance Group. “I really enjoyed seeing the residents have so much fun,” she said.

Other volunteers are also bringing enjoyment and stimulation to care home residents. John Jordan of Tiverton has started visiting his local residential care home to offer residents company.

He says: “I wanted to get involved with the scheme simply to chat to residents. We talk about our interests and hobbies, and it’s surprising really how much people can have in common.

“The more people who join the volunteer scheme, the better. It’s great for residents and better for staff. Once you start, I don’t think people will want to stop.”

Residents and users of the Council’s day services, like Pat Edwards who attends Bodley House in Exeter every week, have really enjoyed watching and getting involved with the dance routines by the Isca Wheelchair Dance Group.

Pat says: “I thought they were very good. My friend Doreen, who never gets up, got up and danced with them! I though the music was excellent and the dance group were very friendly.”

Others residents have said: “That was the best entertainment we’ve ever had.”

“That was really good. Hope they come back!”

Volunteer singer Stan Street has become a welcome visitor at several homes, entertaining residents with his wonderful renditions of popular music from the fifties and sixties.

Councillor Stuart Barker, the Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the scheme, said: “Our homes provide a lot of activities to keep residents occupied and as fulfilled as possible, but we want to do more and to encourage people to keep up with previous hobbies and interests.

“We all know that helping people to be motivated and to maintain interests can be really beneficial to their health and wellbeing, which is why we’ve been looking for volunteers who can on a regular basis visit our care homes and develop stimulating creative activities for residents.”

The Council has been looking for volunteers with a broad range of interests. Volunteers are ‘matched’ with individuals or small groups of residents, depending upon what residents themselves are interested in.

Volunteers can be of any age. Training, enhanced CRB checks – which are free to volunteers – and references will be required before volunteers can start.

To find out more about the Family, Friends and Volunteers Activities scheme, contact the FFAVA Manager, Sue West on 07855 381173 or email: ffavavolunteerscheme-mailbox@devon.gov.uk.

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