There’s a common misconception that volunteering is a completely selfless act and that you are some kind of superhero if you volunteer. It might surprise you to know that volunteering has some surprising major health benefits. Volunteering is good for your health and community. So it is something you might want to consider adding into your self-care routine.
Studies show volunteering helps improve your mental health and wellbeing. Helping other people triggers a release of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone has the effect of boosting your mood and counteracts the effects of cortisol aka the stress hormone in your body. When oxytocin begins to flow, blood pressure decreases, reducing social fears and anxiety.
Giving an hour or so a week can act as a circuit breaker to the everyday stress of work and home life. It can give you a change of scenery, the opportunity to talk to different people, more structure to your week and allow you to build confidence or learn a new skill. It can also help you reset and appreciate what is important in life by giving you more self-awareness when starting to sweat the small stuff.
Nicky Shallcross is the Volunteer Recruiter for Edinburgh based Vintage Vibes, a project working to combat loneliness amongst over 60s by creating 1:1 friendships between volunteers.
Nicky explains her motivation for volunteering…
“After starting my own business in 2022, I started to feel lonely working from home on my own. I’d gone from a busy head office environment to working alone and being all departments. I realised that you don’t have to be elderly or living on your own to feel like this, it’s surprising at how quickly this can happen to anyone. I was familiar with Vintage Vibes and their work from their annual Christmas Card campaign. It made sense to help someone else who was feeling lonely too by becoming a Friendship Volunteer.
I completed my volunteer training, the Vintage Vibes team then set about finding me a “VIP” who had similar interests to me. For the past year I’ve visited my 85 year old friend Sheila every week for an hour or so. We talk about anything and everything and are always giggling. My family live down south so there is something grounding and familiar having someone who is older to talk to. She’s warm, caring and dispenses no nonsense advice just like my Grandparents used to. I always come away from our visits with a sense of calm.
Sheila never ceases to amaze me with her constant curiosity on what’s going on in the world. In the summer she went on a girl’s weekend to Blackpool and enjoyed watching the Glastonbury coverage. Her highlight was Elton John, she said she turned the volume up and had a dance around her living room. Aging is natural part of life; I really hope I’m as sprightly as her when I’m older.
I’ve taken Sheila to local places close to where she lives that she didn’t realise were there. She loves the Edinburgh Printworks and Grow Urban plant cafe. The staff recognise her and chat, it makes her feel seen and included. For Sheila’s 85th birthday we went to Maison De Moggy, sadly she had to give up her beloved cat during the pandemic and misses her dearly. Despite personally not being a big cat lover, we had so much fun! I really felt that feel good feeling seeing her so happy.
Volunteering has personally given me a massive boost to my own mental health and was exactly what I needed. I’ve made a friend and got to meet so many amazing people. It’s even led to a part time job opportunity with the charity so you never know what good things volunteering can lead to.”
According to a 2021 study conducted by Age Scotland, more than 200,000 older people in Scotland are lonely. This study found that 10% of people over 50 feel lonely all or most of the time. Age UKs follow up 2022 study highlights that right now in Scotland loneliness among older people is at record levels. 100,000 older people say they feel lonely all or most of the time. Two years of Covid lockdowns and living under restrictions which prevented older people seeing family and friends have left countless older people feeling acutely alone.
The Scottish Government have identified that social isolation and loneliness are significant public health concerns in Scotland. Loneliness is linked to increased risk of poor health and reduced life expectancy. A Connected Scotland – a strategy for building stronger social connections and reducing social isolation and loneliness hopes to address this. Volunteering plays a key part in the plan to help achieve this. Volunteering at Vintage Vibes can supports both health and community.
Government funding cuts to services combined with the cost of living and the fallout from the pandemic mean charities are under more pressure than ever. Charities must now deliver critical community support services that local authorities cannot. Volunteers are pivotal to being able to do this.
In addition to the benefits for individuals, volunteering can also have a positive impact on local communities. According to Volunteer Scotland, volunteers contribute an estimated £2.26 billion to the Scottish economy each year. Volunteering can also help build stronger, more connected communities by bringing people of all generations together.
If you’re interested in varying your week, consider volunteering as way to do this as well as making someone else’s. Volunteer Edinburgh is a great resource for finding volunteer opportunities in your area to fit around your schedule and support organisations that align with your values, more information can be found here. If you’d like to find out more about becoming a Vintage Vibes Friendship Volunteer, please visit their website here.
Thanks for reading,
Nicky Shallcross, Volunteering Coordinator at Vintage Vibes.
For our first Tribe Talks of the year we are collaborating with Vintage Vibes. Join us on 25th January from 18:30 for a fun evening hosted by volunteer coordinator, Nicky Shallcross.
Vintage Vibes is an award-winning project tackling isolation and loneliness in Edinburgh. The project, a partnership between LifeCare Edinburgh and Space at the Broomhouse Hub, started in 2015 as a fresh new way to combat isolation and loneliness among over 60s (called VIPs) in Edinburgh.
Vintage Vibes creates long lasting one-to-one friendships offering support, companionship and the opportunity for lonely VIPs to be more socially connected and active in their local community. Vintage Vibes are looking for volunteers of all ages (17+) from across Edinburgh.
This is a great opportunity to break the ice with Vintage Vibes and find out more about their work as well as how to volunteer. Nicky will introduce you to Vintage Vibes and their work and answer any questions about volunteering or how to refer someone who may benifit from their service.
Join us for a tea and a sweet treat, click here for more information and to register.
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