The mental health benefits of volunteering
Without a doubt 2020 has put extreme pressure on the nation’s mental health. But at McCarthy & Stone, we’ve learnt first-hand that the very act of volunteering can offer a lifeline to volunteers, as well as the people they help.
“Buddying bought a sense of purpose to my weeks and days”
Lockdown, self-isolation, shielding, the furlough scheme…the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention the devastating illness itself, left many of us feeling lonely, anxious and depressed.
At McCarthy & Stone our first thought was for the welfare of the people living in our retirement developments. As lockdown took hold, we asked our employees to volunteer to become Buddies , and support homeowners who were shielding, or unable to go out.
Hundreds of our employees stepped up to help over 1,600 of our homeowners, ensuring they received food supplies and medication, as well as emotional support - often in the form of a good chat and a giggle.
This fantastic initiative has not only been a lifeline for homeowners, however. Volunteering has played a big role in the mental health and the wellbeing of our volunteers too.
Alison Nunez, Director, Multi-tenure“Volunteering to be a Buddy was a no brainer for me. I was brought up in a home where charity and volunteering were a massive focus. I have so many memories of helping my parents out at charity events, and day centres or the Red Cross hut at our local beach.
I love speaking to my Cheltenham ladies at Jenner Court every week. Those calls and shopping trips have now become a permanent fixture in my diary, given me a routine in addition to my work diary and given me a purpose other than colleague and mum. I have worked all the way through lockdown, it’s been a really busy time and it would be so easy to sit and just keep working into the evening, every evening, with nothing else to do and nowhere to go. I’m not good at sitting still, and when I do, I just think about what to do next! Being a Buddy has been a really good focus for me and a chance to do something for others and to be relied upon.
I like to think I add something to my homeowners’ week, and they do enjoy a chat (and not just the fact I am going to bring them their lemon drizzle cake and make up!). I do try to reassure them about the ‘outside world’ – and add that the long queues and fogged up glasses from masks are not much to miss!
They ask me regularly, with concern, if I am still ok to carry on helping them, but giving up hasn’t even crossed my mind - it’s good for me.
At some stage a glass of wine in the garden and a proper face-to-face maskless conversation will be lovely and I look forward to offering continued support to Sadie and the great team at Jenner Court if they need me.”
Alexander Fleming, Health & Wellbeing Advisor“For me, working from home during Covid19 has been really hard, stepping away from my usual role where I support some of our most vulnerable homeowners. Being able to volunteer has definitely bought a sense of purpose to my days and weeks and knowing that we are giving them security in these difficult times has been great. It’s also been wonderful to see so many people across the business working more closely with homeowners.
Knowing I have played a small part in the big programme of support we have offered our homeowners has given me a real sense of pride.”
The benefits of volunteering for volunteers include:
- An increased sense of purpose, wellbeing and happiness
- The opportunity to meet people and make new friends
- The chance to learn new skills and enjoy new life experiences
- Career progression – volunteering is a positive addition to any C.V.
- The chance to gain a new perspective on life that can help reduce stress
- A boost to self-esteem and mental health
McCarthy & Stone is committed to looking after the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees as well as of everyone living in our retirement properties. As part of this commitment we will be launching a new volunteering programme – coming soon!