A new program for senior volunteers funded by New Horizons for Seniors is being offered through the South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre.
Healthy Connections focuses on seniors who have been active volunteers in the community but have become disconnected because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Senior volunteers comprise more than 60 per cent of volunteers who help run festivals, programs and services for non-profit societies in the region. Volunteer work and non-profit organizations represent two per cent of Canada’s economic activity, on par with employment of the manufacturing industry.
“Older adults like Baby Boomers, now aged 55 to 75, account for 30 per cent of the population and are known for being dedicated volunteers,” said Laura Turnbull, volunteer project lead for Healthy Connections. “Assisting their return to volunteering is keenly important for maintaining a healthy community.”
Turnbull was joined by six volunteers to formulate the Healthy Connections program in April. The group began with a phone campaign to establish local research.
“We had national statistics, but it was important to us to speak with South Okanagan volunteers and assess the local climate,” she said. “It was not surprising to find that over 60 per cent were not currently volunteering.”
However, she said a high percentage are ready to return. Although there were some concerns with COVID-19, most were comfortable with established protocols.
“COVID-19 has restricted networking; at work, on the soccer field, or among friends and family. This creates a whole new challenge for organizations, who have relied on word of mouth for recruiting volunteers,” she said.
Although Zoom has provided a new way to network, it has not yet filled the recruitment gap.
“With the ongoing closures of larger events, indoor and outdoor, the positive energy level (the fun) volunteering encompasses is at an all-time low,” Turnbull said. “We need to consider new techniques for matching those ready to return with the continual needs of our community organizations.”
The timing for this project compliments the 10-year anniversary of the volunteer centre.
The South Okanagan-Similkameen Volunteer Centre is a registered non-profit society and charity since 2011, providing resources and support services for volunteers, volunteer managers and volunteer-based community organizations.
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