Age NI is appealing for more volunteers to join the charity and help make a huge difference to the lives of older people this Volunteers’ Week. The annual celebration, which runs from 1–7 June, recognises the phenomenal contribution of volunteers in communities across Northern Ireland.

In 2020-21, Age NI trained and supported over 680 volunteers who provided over 8400 hours of support to older people. The charity is hoping to inspire a new cohort of volunteers to donate their time to make a difference to the lives of local older people, many of whom have no one to turn to.

As well as helping others and providing much-needed support, volunteering offers huge benefits to the individual and enables people to gain valuable experience, new skills, build confidence and make friends. Age NI volunteers are of all generations, with younger people enjoying the interaction with older members of the community, and older people benefiting from connecting with others and giving some of their spare time to support others.

Age NI volunteers are provided with training and support to carry out their roles. And because Age NI offers a range of services, there are countless opportunities to volunteer. For example, people can:

Volunteer with local Age NI services and projects

Age NI offers a range of volunteering opportunities in its services and projects across Northern Ireland, whether this is within one of its day centres, helping older people to enjoy health and wellbeing activities and connect to others in their community, or by supporting older people through difficult life transitions. By volunteering with Age NI you will be supporting older people to remain independent in their own home for longer.

Join an Age NI Shop team

Age NI has 4 charity shops in Bangor, Ballymena, Coleraine and Newtownards, which help the charity raise vital funds for its work and services for older people. The shops are dependent on the support and dedication of volunteers, who not only help with the essential operations but also offer a friendly welcome and chat for everyone who comes in. Every hour they contribute makes a huge difference.

Age NI shops have a range of opportunities and time slots for volunteers, both behind the scenes and on the shop floor, including serving customers and creating displays, managing stock donations and assisting with shop administration.

Making a difference

Last year around 400 volunteers were trained and supported to deliver Age NI’s telephone friendship service, Check in & Chat. This service is there to provide regular, friendly conversations by matching lonely or isolated older people with a trained volunteer who calls them every week. Just 30 minutes a week of a volunteer’s time can make an enormous difference to an older person’s life. One user of this service told us, “I really look forward to the call. My volunteer is chirpy and happy and she really cheers me up.

Even before COVID, Northern Ireland was facing a loneliness epidemic amongst older people, with issues such as bereavement, ill health and complex long term health conditions making it harder for older people to stay connected. Huge numbers of older people are still navigating these difficulties alone. Could you spare a little time to help us to help them?

Come and join us

Dr Paschal McKeown, Charity Director at Age NI, said: “Every day, in so many ways, our volunteers give their time and effort to make an incredible difference to the lives of older people. Without them, we couldn’t reach and support so many older people and we are hugely grateful.

Age NI services are a lifeline for thousands of older people and their families in Northern Ireland and we continue to offer much-needed support as the impact of the cost of living crisis deepens. The support of a wide network of dedicated local volunteers is invaluable, but more volunteers are needed to help Age NI continue to be there for the older people who are most in need.

There are lots of volunteering opportunities and most of them are flexible, so you can fit them around other things you do. We would love to have you as part of our fantastic extended Age NI team, so please do get in touch.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer for Age NI should click here or email [email protected]

You can learn more about some of our incredible volunteers here