Community Visitors Scheme provides a lifeline of connection

Lee and Colleen Photo: Amanda Brook

Lee is 103 years old, legally blind and has lived in aged care at Killarney Vale for 12 years.

She has knitted and donated more than 2,000 trauma teddies for the ambulance service.

Lee and Colleen have been friends since May 2017, after Colleen decided to volunteer her time visiting an older person in aged care.

“At first I was concerned that I would be imposing myself on someone, but really, I needn’t have worried,” Colleen said.

They are both part of the Volunteering Central Coast Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) which has just had a $28,000 financial boost from the Federal Government.

Health Minister, Greg Hunt, said he recognised the significant impact that CVS volunteers had on the wellbeing of older citizens since it started in 1992.

This volunteer program has been particularly important during the past year of Covid restrictions on aged care facilities, and Volunteering Central Coast (VCC) volunteers have used all manner of ways to remain connected, sending cards and gifts, and telephoning their older friends, providing a lifeline of connection during this distressing time of social isolation.

VCC has received additional funds to be able to enhance these connections using tablets or iPads to enable video calls between the older resident and their visitor, as well as being a source of connection to the internet, mind gym apps, music and more.

“Community visitor volunteers commit to visiting their matched resident friend at least once a fortnight,” said Toni Trent, the CVS Co-ordinator at VCC.

“Visits are spent doing something that both the visitor and the resident enjoy, you might want to read, listen to music, chat and reminisce, or watch a favourite TV program together, go for a walk or an outing,” she said.

The new funds will enable these activities to expand with new volunteers exploring the opportunities of being connected to the internet, ancestry searches, online games or touring the world via Google Earth.

Volunteering Central Coast is the local Volunteer Resource Centre and the lead agency for Volunteer Support Services for the Central Coast region.

It provides volunteer support services to individuals and volunteer involving organisations across the region and has represented the volunteer sector here for almost 40 years.

The Coast has more than 36,000 formal volunteers and many more that volunteer occasionally or help out in a crisis.

VCC co-ordinates the delivery of the CVS program on the Coast and also provides nearly 50 volunteers to visit older people, providing friendship and companionship.

Visits are available to anyone receiving government-subsidised residential aged care or Home Care Packages.

There is a particular focus on older people that have little contact with friends or relatives, are feeling isolated from their culture and heritage, have mobility issues that prevent them from taking part in social or leisure activities or are different in some way.

Executive Officer at Volunteering Central Coast, Fiona Morrison, said the Community Visitors Scheme showed how volunteers personified VCC’s message about volunteering, Helping People, Changing Lives.

“Volunteering brings people together for many reasons and we are so proud to have a wonderful team of our volunteers giving back to those most isolated in our community, especially the perseverance we have seen in the challenges that they have faced to maintain contact with the resident they have befriended during the Covid restrictions that have seen some aged care facilities in lockdown for six months,” she said.

Media release, Feb 26
Volunteering Central Coast