5 ways to volunteer in a pandemic

Giving Back Community
15 July 2021
Cropped image of volunteer taking temperature of visitor

Volunteering is a fundamental part of Aussie culture. It’s no doubt that our easy-going and compassionate nature contributed to Australia ranking 4th in the world on the World Giving Index in 2021.

You’ve most likely done some form of volunteering before. Whether it’s dropping items off at the Salvos or offering to do groceries for your elderly neighbour, volunteering is helpful no matter how small the gesture.

According to the 2016 census, 3.6 million Australians, or 19% of the population aged 15 years and over, engage in some form of voluntary work. Of these volunteers, 668,000 are aged over 65, often volunteering their time to charities, community groups and organisations.

The impact of COVID-19 on volunteering in aged care

In 2019, nearly 850 volunteers engaged with Age Matters, an IRT social impact initiative, to help improve the lives of the more than 9,100 older people living in our aged care centres, retirement villages or those receiving care in their own home. In 2020 this number fell to 439.

Sadly the ability of volunteers to carry out their valuable work was significantly hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, Australia’s volunteering force has lost up to 20 percent of its volunteers since social distancing rules and other government legislation came into effect in late March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Many Australian charities came under strain from pressures caused by the restrictions. Many not for profit organisations and charities saw a reduction in the availability of their regular volunteers. Some also experienced a sharp decrease in revenue streams as traditional fundraising events were cancelled and their op shops closed.

The good news is there are still ways to volunteer and assist our older, more vulnerable Australians.

Here are five new ways to make a difference in aged care:

1. Friendly Assistance volunteers

This program was launched by Age Matters to provide much needed support for vulnerable older people in the community in the early stages of the pandemic. Friendly Assistance Volunteers are matched with vulnerable older people in the Illawarra who are self-isolating due to the pandemic or are experiencing other forms of social isolation. The volunteer arranges a weekly phone call for a social chat and to check in about anything they might need. Throwing someone a lifeline to meaningful social connection can be as simple as that.

2. IRT Connect volunteers

These roles were created for the technologically savvy volunteer to assist residents using smart devices to video call their loved ones. Volunteers connect residents with family and loved ones using the IRT Connect app on a smart tablet. They coordinate video calls using the app, assist with bookings, and help family members use the app, initiate calls and hold the device for residents if required.

3. Wellness check volunteers

These essential positions were created for volunteers to assist with the important task of ensuring anyone entering an aged care centre completes and passes the mandatory wellness check before entering the building. This is a great way to meet people, chat with them about their day, and help them connect with their loved one.

4. Write to a resident

This campaign encourages people in the community to let aged care centre residents and those receiving home care services know they’re not alone by writing a letter and using our Reply Paid codes to mail it without cost. IRT residents received many letters and drawings from young children, school students and parents from all over Australia.

5. Dear Neighbour

This initiative is about showing your elderly neighbours they are not alone. It’s an easy way for anyone to volunteer their time. Volunteers print out and drop a completed ‘Dear Neighbour’ form in their elderly neighbour’s letterbox offering to help with everyday tasks like grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions or walking the dog. You can find out more, including the form here.

How to get involved

Volunteering now, more than ever, is vital. More of us than ever before need to dig in and help out members of the community wherever we can. IRT has a large volunteer network and volunteering is a great experience to meet new people, learn new skills and make new friends while making a difference. The IRT Volunteer program aims to enrich the lives of older Australians through meaningful connections. Our volunteers play a valuable role in supporting our mission and values.

If you wish to express an interest in volunteering with us, please visit the Volunteer Page of our website to submit an expression of interest. We encourage you to also review our current volunteer vacancies, which are regularly advertised on the Careers Page of our website.