If you`re a fan of The Beatles, then you probably heard of the song “When I`m Sixty-Four”. But have you ever thought about how your life may be at that age? You may see yourself as a happy retiree in good health travelling the world, reading books, or perhaps stories to your grandchildren.
Sometimes, however, reality is harsher than people`s expectations and hopes. The great ancient Greek playwright Sophocles said that “An old man growing old becomes a child again”. The Buddy Club and ActiviTeas volunteers are perhaps the people who best understand this phrase, as they pay regular visits to elderly care homes in the local areas around campus. The two volunteering projects aim to connect the older and younger generations and ease loneliness and isolation among the residents of these care homes.
I had the chance to visit Willowbrook last summer, a residential home situated just a few minutes away from campus, together with a few other Buddy Club volunteers. After a warm welcome by the members of staff, we all spread around the living room and started talking to the residents. The resident I talked to was a woman exhibiting severe memory loss and serious hearing deficiencies. Communication with her was not easy at all. I started asking her about where she is from, her past job, the places she has seen, her family, her time at the care home. She was very slow to articulate sentences, and her speech was characterised my long breaks, lacunas, and sometimes inconsistencies. Equipped with patience and always having a question ready for her, I thus tried my best to help her express herself and make order in her mind. I soon realised that asking her step-by-step, specific questions rather than very general ones seemed to elicit much better answers, so I sticked to my technique all the way through. As I was listening to her, I thought about how much intellectual effort she was putting into answering what would otherwise seem trivial questions. I was particularly impressed by her determination to remember certain aspects she had forgotten. Initially, she would tell me to move on, as she could not remember something, but then, out of her own initiative, she was coming back to it, trying hard to bring the memory back to life. I felt an immense spiritual satisfaction when, after many failed attempts, she managed to remember the names of some of the places she visited with her family, guided by my helping questions and guesses. I came to the conclusion that training the human mind is similar to training for a sport: the more you practice, the more it improves and I was very happy that I could thus use my younger mind to train an older one. I remember I left Willowbrook with one wish: that of aging in a beautiful manner, having the power and clarity of my mind not taken away by the merciless passage of time.
Reflecting back upon my visit last summer, I would describe it as an exercise of empathy and compassion. Few other experiences have been so enriching and rewarding like this one. Seeing the human frailty, I have become more aware of the need to cherish my youth to the maximum and to be thankful that my parents are in good health.
If you want to volunteer with Buddy Club and/or ActiviTeas and you missed the Volunteering Fair last Friday, go the webpage below, where you can sign-up. Make sure you tick Buddy Club and/or ActiviTeas as your preferred volunteering project(s).
If you want to volunteer with Buddy Club and/or ActiviTeas and you are already a member of Warwick Volunteers, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
Alternatively, (plus for any other query), feel free to go to the Warwick Volunteers Office, situated in the SUHQ, near Xananas, right above Rootes Grocery Store.
For Buddy Club, sessions run once a week for one and a half hours on a Wednesday afternoon, in Canley. Feel free to contact Nicole, Aneesha, or Hannah, three biomedical science students who are the project leaders of the club, at
Have a look at the project`s webpage and Facebook page as well: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/about/community/volunteers/volunteering/buddyclub/
For ActiviTeas, sessions are held 2-3 times per term in Leamington Spa and run for 2 hours, though times and dates vary. Volunteering is flexible and you are free to join as few or as many session as you want, at any point during the year. If you`re interested, have a look at the project`s webpage: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/about/community/volunteers/volunteering/activiteas/
Cassandra, Media and Communications Officer – Student Exec