Volunteering, it’s our second nature!
The restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have raised social awareness of the key role played by seniors, particularly in the area of volunteering. How many organizations had to suspend their activities because there were no volunteers available? Fortunately, we know that we are slowly but surely on our way back to “normal” and that volunteer work is all the more essential because our social needs are more pressing than ever.
For Le Groupe Maurice, the value of volunteering is priceless. The contributions made by volunteers to our society are not just important: they are vital. Step by step, volunteer activities help to make Quebec society more fair, vibrant, human and inclusive. It is a well-known fact that volunteering helps to improve seniors’ quality of life. For that reason, the company is a firm believer in the benefits of altruistic activities. A new internal structure was recently set up to help and support our recreation managers in their efforts to get volunteer organizations involved in Le Groupe Maurice residences. Here’s a look at a win-win topic!
Le Groupe Maurice has always encouraged a wide range of initiatives aimed at enhancing seniors’ happiness. For that reason, volunteer activities play a key role in the company’s residences. And thanks to its many beneficial effects, socialization is among the top-ranked activities.
“The older we get, the easier it is for us to feel isolated. Volunteering is a great way to break that isolation,” says Marc Ouimet, Le Groupe Maurice’s Assistant Vice President, Operations and Related Services. “Volunteering has lots of other advantages, such as knowledge sharing, using skills to benefit the community and feeling useful and comfortable in your environment. All of that is very gratifying, but it’s really the process of forging new links that provides seniors with the greatest benefits. Their overall health is clearly improved, and the more socially active they are, the happier they feel. It’s all interconnected.”
So how can we encourage seniors to get more involved?
The reality of volunteering differs from one residence to another. In newer complexes, seniors get involved naturally: they’re eager to move in and meet new people, and they have energy and lots of ideas. In a residence that’s been in operation for several years, however, the situation could be the opposite: the recreation department has to suggest more projects to stimulate residents’ curiosity, creativity and socialization. The recreation manager’s role is to adapt this offer to meet residents’ needs and expectations.
“Volunteer activities help seniors to feel younger, more involved and more useful, but they’re not necessarily aware of those benefits when they first get involved. But we’re certainly aware of them,” says Marc Ouimet. “That means our role is to create an inviting and stimulating environment that’s designed to foster participation. To do that, we have to identify their interests and passions, and make them come alive. That’s why we created the leisure profile.”
Marc Ouimet adds, “We also created a questionnaire to survey the residents’ interests and recreational preferences, which they are asked to complete when they move in. This profile is particularly effective and useful because it provides a complete snapshot of each resident’s tastes and talents. It also allows us to suggest initiatives in line with prospective volunteers’ passions and skills. That is the key to ensuring the success of volunteer activities.”
“The more introverted residents can still help by reading books aloud, distributing newspapers or running the library. The more outgoing ones might prefer to lead an activity or a discussion group or even host a bingo game.”
John Conway adds, “According to Le Groupe Maurice’s recreation advisors, the best way of embracing one’s living environment is to get involved. A seniors’ residence is a dynamic place that reflects the spirit of the people who live there, particularly when they’re eager to put in their two cents’ worth! Most of the time, the residents themselves offer their time spontaneously and come up with their own ideas. At Ekla in Québec City, for example, during the holiday season, they created a wonderful Christmas village from scratch. This project, which was initiated by a resident, came to life when she gave the recreation manager some toy Christmas cottages to be used as decorations. In no time at all, other residents started contributing to the display and before we knew it, a beautiful Christmas village had taken shape, including a train set! The display was so popular that we had to set up a viewing schedule to accommodate the crowds.”
According to Aude Dailly, Recreation Advisor at Le Groupe Maurice, “We want the residents to feel invested in volunteering and other activities. We want their residence to reflect their values. We’re simply here to coordinate their ideas. After all, we’re working in the place they live in!”
Volunteer action plan
In 2020, Le Groupe Maurice’s Recreation Department will be putting in place a volunteer action plan aimed at encouraging residents to get more involved in their community. This plan is designed to provide a framework for in-house volunteer activities, as well as to bring more external volunteers into the residences to meet needs, or to expose residents to new things. In addition, individuals will be encouraged to play a bigger role in organized activities outside their residence, but within their community. Opportunities for interaction and sharing and the resulting friendships will serve to strengthen ties between the residents and their “host community.”
Categories of volunteering
According to Aude Dailly, no one volunteering category is more popular than another, and some ideas come to life spontaneously in multiple residences. For example, a committee tasked with putting out an in-house newspaper might be created. The recreation managers are particularly fond of the “resident ambassadors” project. Through this initiative, existing residents themselves come out to greet and assist new residents, who thus get accustomed to their new living environment, and community life, more quickly and easily.
Virtual golf is another very popular activity, and some residents agree to sponsor “rookies” who want to learn how to play. Knitting clubs are another noteworthy example. The annual collection of tuques and mittens is donated to local hospitals to keep newborns warm. A number of walking groups have also been created for residents interested in physical fitness. Each year, they take part in the Mauricie National Park Challenge. It’s impossible to list all the initiatives undertaken in the residences because there are so many of them!
“The actions of volunteers will always be as diverse as the needs to be met and the talents of the people who get involved.”
John Conway adds, “We are extremely lucky. Seniors need to feel useful and put their knowledge to good use, in addition to having free time and a very flexible schedule. All we need to offer is the infrastructure. The conditions are ideal for fostering volunteering in our residences. It’s worth it to put in the time and energy to organize volunteer activities so we can maximize the benefits. It’s a win-win for everyone!”
A big THANK YOU to all the residents who devote their valuable time to these noble causes. You are a never-ending source of inspiration!