Volunteers lift spirits at Christmas time

Eliska and her retired racing greyhound China are regular, friendly faces at St Catherine’s aged care in Balwyn.

The secondary school student is one of more than 350 social visitors who make a real difference to the lives of older people in Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) aged care communities, particularly around Christmas when loneliness can be amplified.

Eliska, 17, said she chose to volunteer within aged care because she was able to volunteer with China.

“I’d heard of the many benefits of pet therapy. I’m also interested in a career in medicine and gaining experience in the health system and helping other people.”

Every Friday after class at Fintona Girls’ School, Eliska and China sit and chat with residents or just sit companionably while they pat the dog.

“I enjoy listening to the residents’ memories of their pets or other events. Some give advice and wisdoms on life, while others tell a good story or a good joke. I also love how the residents are always friendly and happy to see the dog.”

Eliska said she would “definitely encourage” others to volunteer.

“It’s gratifying as you feel that you’ve truly made a difference.”

This Christmas VMCH is highlighting the ways you can reach out to those who may be a bit lonely and brighten their day.

VMCH Volunteer Services Senior Manager Bron Summers said volunteers were always needed across aged care, disability and community services.

“Older people can be at risk of isolation at any time but at Christmas when the emphasis is on family celebrations, the isolation can be heightened. Some residents have the support of family but some do not and a small act of checking in on or visiting an older person can make all the difference. It may be the only social contact a person has throughout the day.”

To find out more, call 1800 036 377.

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