Alan Weaver and his daughter Emily want to spread the word about how easy volunteering can be.
Both Weavers help out with Better at Home, a program designed to help seniors continue living in their own homes by providing a range of non-medical support services.
For Alan, who works for the ambulance service, that might mean anything from fixing a loose board on a deck to changing light bulbs, one of his recent assignments through the program.
“I got an older man where every light bulb in his house is burnt out. He is in a wheelchair and can’t change any of these light bulbs,” said Alan. “He was basically living in the dark.”
Alan said the senior, confined to his wheelchair, changing the lights was an impossible job. but for him, it was easy.
“I was in and out of his house in probably under 15 minutes, and that truly altered his life. To me, that is a huge deal,” said Alan. “Just little things like that take us no time to do that improve their quality of life immensely.”
There are many tasks people take for granted, Alan explained, but for an elderly person with arthritis, something as simple as changing batteries in a remote or resetting a microwave oven can become a major chore.
Alan started volunteering with Better at Home a little less than a year ago after being recruited by program co-ordinator Myrna Tischer, and, in turn, recruited his daughter when she returned home from school this summer.
“It was something I never even thought there was a need for. Then, when you see it, you realize there is so many people that need just such small things done for them,” said Emily, who is studying in Vancouver to enter nursing. “They are so, so happy that you did it, and it took so little time out of your day to do it for them.”
Emily said she has found people value her companionship as much as the car ride to do errands.
“Even just to talk to someone on the car ride and tell you what they are going to do with their day. They are just so excited to go out and be with somebody,” she said. “It was different, it kind of showed me a different side of the community.”
When she arrived to pick one man up, Emily said, the man, struggling with memory loss, had not only forgotten she was coming, but even that he had a doctor’s appointment.
“Even just going in to the doctor, he was asking ‘Can you hold my hand?’” she said. “They are so vulnerable, and they just want somebody to be there for them. It’s not very hard.
“That’s the biggest thing, it’s a lot easier than people think it is.”
Both Alan and Emily agree their volunteer work is more fulfilling than they expected.
“They always try to pay you,” said Alan. “I tell them I am getting more out of this, believe it or not, than you are getting from me.”
The volunteers don’t take any payments for their work, but Myrna explained there is a fee for the seniors participating in the program, tied to their income level. That helps pay for some of the other services the program provides, like light housekeeping, yard work and snow shoveling.
But the problem, Tischer said, is finding people like the Weavers who are willing to donate their time.
Emily said this kind of volunteering fits in with varied schedules.
“I wanted to volunteer somewhere, but I couldn’t commit to the same time every day, every week,” she said. While she is heading back to Vancouver in the fall, she is already planning to volunteer for a Better at Home Program there.
In Penticton, the Better at Home program is a joint project of the Seniors Wellness Society and the Penticton and District Community Resources Society.