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Scalabrini’s Gold Soul Companionship Program

Our Gold Soul Companionship Program at Scalabrini is the first of its kind in Australia and is an intergenerational student volunteer program that we’ve been running since 2018 at our aged care village in Bexley.

 

The Gold Soul Companionship program represents:

•  Gold: generosity, wisdom, knowledge → value

•  Soul: thoughts, feelings and actions → spirit

•  Companionship: enjoying each others company → outcome

 

Through the program, a small group of Allied Health students from The University of Sydney are offered free accommodation on-site at Scalabrini Bexley in exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month with our residents.

 

The goal of these volunteer hours is to create opportunities for intergenerational bonding and friendship. This means that while students are able to spend time with residents and enrich their lives socially, students also gain further insights into residential aged care within the context of their university studies. A focus on relationship based care improves the quality of life for the residents as well as adding value to students by reducing any negative preconceptions around the elderly and aged care.

 

Some of the Gold Soul Companionship program volunteering activities look like:

•  Sharing meals with residents

•  Playing cards and board games

•  Attending Mass with residents

•  Making customised music playlists

•  Putting on events eg. high teas

•  Spending quality time with our residents

•  Organising and facilitating group activities

•  Participating in light exercise

 

Due to its unstructured nature and the friendships formed, students often spend more than the required 30 hours a month of volunteer time. Students find hidden joy and gain as much from the residents as they give towards them.

 

A perfect example of this is Katie’s story. Katie is a 23 year old international student who was recently interviewed about her meaningful experiences while living at Bexley. You can read more about her participation in the Gold Soul program here: https://www.catholicweekly.com.au/at-23-katie-finds-life-in-a-nursing-home-is-full-of-joy/

Career benefits of volunteering

1: 6 ways volunteering in aged care can help your career

Volunteering in aged care is one of the best ways to give back to the community. Whether it’s spending quality time, helping them engage their favourite hobbies or just lending a listening ear, your presence truly enriches the lives of our residents. 

But, what may surprise many people about volunteering is just how mutually beneficial it is. Beyond the benefits like improving your health and mental wellbeing, being a volunteer can actually take you far in your career. Not only does it help you develop key skills, but it’s also looked upon favourably by prospective employers.

Read on to learn about 6 ways being an aged care volunteer can give you a career boost.

1. You can make new connections 

Any time you broaden your horizon and get out of your comfort zone, it naturally expands your network. Spending time volunteering in aged care is no exception! When you volunteer, you meet not only the residents but also the staff, family members of residents and other volunteers. 

Of course, it’s important to be equally kind to everyone you meet, without wanting to get anything out of the interaction. But, you also never know who you’re going to run into. Maybe that resident’s daughter is the CEO of your dream organisation and raves about the lovely volunteer they’ve been spending time with. Or, perhaps you meet another volunteer who is an HR recruiter looking for someone with exactly your skills? 

You never know what opportunities can arise just from being a good person, in the right place at the right time.

2. It can be a great resume bridge

Are you currently between jobs or perhaps you’re in the process of changing careers? Volunteering can be an excellent way to bridge the gap between roles. 

Not only is it an extremely rewarding way to spend some of your newfound free time, but it can actually help you when you start interviewing for roles.  Employers tend to look more favourably upon candidates who undertook volunteer work during times of unemployment.

It shows that you’re driven, self, motivated and proactive, which are all incredibly valuable skills in an employee. Plus, let’s face it — when a hirer asks “So, what have you been doing for the last six months”, volunteering at a retirement home is a far more compelling response than “watching TV in my PJs!”

3. It speaks volumes about your character

It takes a special kind of person to volunteer in aged care. To even have that initial interest in spending your free time this way, you must be altruistic, selfless and generous. But, there are also other traits you need to be a successful volunteer, such as being patient and having strong communication skills.

Many employers are becoming more aware of the importance of culture fit and ‘soft’ skills when hiring a new employee. However, this can be a tough thing to prove, beyond just saying “I’m good with people.” Volunteering can give you a tangible example of your character and give you an edge over the competition. 

4. It builds relevant career experience

It can be tough when you’re first starting out in your career or changing industries, and every job ad seems to call for an ‘entry-level professional with 10 years of experience’ “How am I expected to get that experience if nobody will give me a chance!” you may be wondering. 

Well, volunteering is the perfect way to build your resume in the meantime, with SEEK data showing that 95% of employers consider this to be a credible type of experience. This is particularly helpful if you’re seeking a role in a people-facing industry, like hospitality, healthcare or human resources. But the experience and skills you’ll develop in working in aged care really translate across any role in any industry.

5. It develops and strengths key skills

When you volunteer in aged care, you develop real-world skills that will serve you well, no matter what career path you go down. These include listening skills, problem-solving, creativity and communication. However, at Scalabrini, we also encourage our volunteers to use and build on their own unique skills. Whether you speak a second language, love to dance or a are personal trainer who can lead an exercise session with our residents, there’s always a way you can put your passions to good use.

6. It makes you a more well-rounded person

It’s all well and good to be the most skilled candidate in the room. But, at the end of the day, we spend roughly one-third of our lives in the workplace. So, people naturally want to spend time with others who are kind and interesting!

By getting you out of your comfort zone and exposing you to new experiences and people, volunteering in aged care helps make you a more multi-dimensional person. It also exposes you to different views and perspectives, so that you can be more open-minded and empathetic to others. Plus, you’ll likely have many great stories about the amazing residents you’ll meet, that you can share in the breakroom or at work drinks!

At the end of the day, the best reason to volunteer in aged care is that you genuinely care about helping others. But — you never know, you may find it ends up helping you even more than it helps our residents, especially when it comes to your professional development.

Volunteering

The benefits of volunteering in aged care

They say that in life, you only get what you give — and this is certainly the case when it comes to volunteering in aged care. 

There’s no doubt that by generously donating their time and skills, our volunteers make our residents lives a little brighter.  But what many volunteers don’t anticipate is just how much the experience will enrich their own lives, too. In fact, volunteering is often just as beneficial to our volunteers as it is our residents!

From your health and happiness to your career and social life, becoming an aged care volunteer can positively impact nearly every aspect of your life. Here are some of the top benefits of volunteering.

Give back to the community

Becoming an aged care volunteer is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Just by spending time with our residents, you can help fill their lives with joy and positivity. However, the benefits of helping others go both ways. Volunteering can help give your life a strong sense of purpose and meaning that other forms of work may not.

This is particularly helpful for volunteers who are retired from the workplace, and find themselves with more time on their hands. It can give them an excellent reason to leap out of bed in the morning, eager to make a difference in our resident’s lives.

Volunteering is also great for young people. Connecting with someone from another generation gives you a whole new perspective about life and an appreciation for those who have come before you.

Broaden your perspective

It’s easy to get wrapped in the day-to-day hustle and bustles and all the issues that come with modern life. Volunteering is the perfect opportunity to break up your daily routine and expand your horizons. 

Coming from all different walks of life, our residents have lived through diverse experiences and many different stages of history. In working with them, you’ll often get to hear their extraordinary stories. Some of them have experienced great challenges and adversity throughout their lifetimes, too. 

It’s a great way to get a reality check, and remind yourself that there’s more to life than emails and social media.

Make new friends

Volunteering in aged care allows you to strike up friendships with people who you may not otherwise ever get the opportunity to meet. Firstly, you will get to know our lovely residents, who have plenty of love and wisdom to share.

You’ll also to get to know the other volunteers. This is an excellent way to broaden your social circle, which can be difficult to do as an adult. If you are recently retired or an empty nester, this is a great way to quell some of the feelings of loneliness that can come with this big transition.

Improve your health

There are multiple studies that show volunteering can alleviate stress and boost your mood. There’s a couple of different reasons why this is the case. Firstly, research shows that oxytocin (a neurotransmitter that regulates social interaction) spikes in some people who regularly volunteer, helping them to better manage stress. Scientists also believe that volunteering can also take the focus off your worries for a while, which reduces feelings of stress. 

You don’t have to give up all of your time to reap the benefits, either. In a report from Volunteering Australia, 95% of participants said that volunteering improved their personal wellbeing — and that even just a few hours made a difference to their happiness and mood.

The benefits of volunteering go beyond just your mental health. In another survey, volunteers reported a range of health benefits after participating in a casual volunteer role over 12 months. The volunteers experienced an 11% increase in social wellbeing, a 9% increase in physical health, a 7% increase in life satisfaction and a 4% decrease in depression.

Learn new skills

There are many valuable skills gained from volunteering with people living with dementia that can be applied to your work, family life and other relationships. One of these is communication. As there can be some barriers in conversing, our volunteers often to find creative ways to communicate with residents. Other important skills you’ll gain or further develop from volunteering include patience, problem-solving, working well in a group, organisation and empathy.

Boost your resume

While we don’t recommend volunteering in aged care simply because it looks good on a resume, it’s certainly an added bonus. Due to the many skills that are gained from volunteer work, it’s often looked upon favourably by prospective employers. Research from SEEK shows that 92% of employers say that relevant volunteer experience gives candidates an advantage in job interviews. This may be partly because it shows you have strong core values that can be difficult to convey in a job interview setting, such as selflessness and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and help. 

Volunteering in aged care can also be helpful for bridging the gap if you are returning to workforce after an extended break. It can help refresh your skills and get you ready to attend job interviews again.

Whether you’re a good listener, are great at arts and crafts or a talented guitar player, your unique skills and personality could make an immense difference in the lives of our residents. In doing so, you’ll reap the benefits, too. To learn more about how you can get involved, head to our volunteering page.