With millions of seniors residing in retirement communities, help from volunteers has always been welcomed. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has led to restricting the amount of outside senior living resources like volunteers that could be involved in extracurricular activities on campuses and daily visits with residents. This has left many communities missing the extra helping hands they’ve come to rely on. So, while we’ve always understood the impact that volunteers have within communities, this past year has shown just how crucial these individuals are within senior living communities.

The senior care industry recently celebrated National Volunteer Week (April 18th-24th, 2021). To pay special tribute to all retirement community volunteers, let’s look at the differences they make in our communities, how volunteers are handling the pandemic, and what senior living resources are available for anyone interested in volunteering within senior living communities.

Why volunteers are considered valuable senior living resources

Although retirement communities are run by trained and compassionate staff members, they are not the only people who work within communities to provide an enjoyable senior living experience. Volunteers are an important part of many retirement communities and their presence can often be what sets the service and atmosphere of one senior living community above another. Having the right number of volunteers can also help to alleviate stress of the community staff, giving them the opportunity to focus on more of the clinical tasks. And being able to devote more time and care to residents is one of the greatest senior living resources a retirement community can offer.

Sometimes volunteers will come into communities just to spend time with residents and listen to their stories, other times they will help residents with activities. Here are some of the most common ways that people may volunteer in a senior living community.

  • Playing cards or board games with residents
  • Singing or putting on plays for residents
  • Transporting residents in wheelchairs from different departments
  • Aiding residents in outdoor activities or going on walks together
  • Helping to throw birthday parties for residents
  • Hosting knitting classes or teaching residents new computer skills

There are also more elevated volunteering positions often available with Hospice programs. These volunteers may help with end-of-life care through spiritual or emotional guidance or spending time with residents when family members may not be available.

How senior living volunteers are adjusting amidst COVID-19 precautions

COVID-19 forced retirement communities to place massive restrictions on the amount of contact residents could have with those outside – let alone inside – their communities. This led to a shortage in the number of volunteers permitted or willing to visit nursing homes. However, with vaccinations rolling out around the country, communities are opening more and more opportunities for volunteers. In this critical time, it’s more important than ever that volunteers adhere to all the safety-related senior living resources that outline best practices for staff members and visitors. This will ensure the safety and health of not only residents but volunteers as well.

The CDC continues to recommend that volunteers should:

  • Practice social distancing when applicable
  • Wear masks at all times – this is essential when social distancing isn’t possible
  • Frequently wash their hands and limit touching of the mask or face
  • Stay home or self-isolate if feeling under the weather
  • Continue to be educated by their community staff on best practices, emergency preparedness plans, and any other changes within their specific communities

Outside of taking the necessary precautions to be able to physically visit residents, there were still community members that volunteered their time off-campus during the height of the pandemic. These volunteers chose to make cards to send to residents, masks, and other care packages for staff and residents to help brighten their day and make connections even if they couldn’t be in-person. These practices are a great way that volunteers can remain part of their communities even now if non-essential volunteers are still limited where they would normally visit.

Senior living resources for volunteers

One of the most appealing aspects for volunteers at a retirement community – other than making a difference in residents’ lives on a daily basis – is that there are varying levels of volunteerism available to match availability, interests, and skill level, as mentioned earlier. You will often see a wide range of ages volunteering from high school students to older adults. And, if volunteers have the desire to do more with their time, there are senior living training options available to help them work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities that require more hands-on care than in an independent living community.

Professionals interested in learning more about volunteering best practices or hoping to provide more training for their volunteers have several senior living resources available with SeniorLivingU that can help. Our team can also be contacted through our website at any time for help finding the right senior living resources that suit volunteering needs or other community related concerns. Here are a few courses and senior living resources that either new or more advanced volunteers could find helpful.

SeniorLivingU is headquartered in Hershey, PA, serving as a support system and education provider for organizations and individuals within the senior living industry. Our website provides a full e-commerce storefront for registered account members to easily purchase new trainings and senior living resources as they see fit and as often as they like. You can also visit the FAQ page for some helpful tips on how to navigate our materials. To learn more about SeniorLivingU, the services we provide, and how we can provide the best senior living resources for your organization, contact us today. We look forward to helping your team receive the quality assisted living training, senior living training, and general education you’ve been searching for.