Older People's Programme
Myra Garrett’s Volunteer Story
I am 83 years old and currently the Co-Chair and Older Volunteers Champion for WHFS (Women's Health & Family Services). Volunteering has always been a part of my life and even more so since I retired from employment. As I get older I can’t physically run around like I used to, but I still want to be involved.
I’m keen to be engaged in the community and don’t want to lose what I have always been associated with. Being part of an organisation like WHFS allows me to still feel useful and limit myself where I need to.
Volunteering has allowed me continue my involvement in the community, giving me an opportunity to be linked with things going on, such as projects in WHFS and current health issues. Being a Trustee at WHFS can be hard work and at times difficult. Things like running out of funding and people’s jobs being made redundant have been challenges which I have faced. However, I have found the role to be very rewarding, especially when you see the way women have flourished and go on to do greater things.
Currently I am conducting discovery interviews and gathering patient experiences for Barts Community Health Services. As a reflective exercise the findings will be fedback to the staff at Barts. I have found this role as a chance to make a real difference and implement change. For instance, I went to see a woman who was visited weekly at home by district nurses. Her story was a reminder to all health professionals to listen to their patients and ask questions instead of assuming that they know best. I am feeding this back to professionals who may forget that the patient may know best about their own treatment and it’s always worth asking. So that’s the role I play, asking questions and listening.
I am also part of my tenants association on Sidney estate; we have a drop in every Tuesday to share what happens in the community. I represent the views of the residents in trying to push things to get done, but it’s pretty frustrating as it hasn’t got very far.
One of the challenges about volunteering at my age is the physical aspect and not giving in to non-active things like watching daytime television. Understanding from my colleagues to recognise that my capacity is less, goes a long way in order for me to stay connected with the things that interest me.
My hopes and aspirations for the Older Volunteers Project is that as people get older they don’t give up what is important to them and stay engaged, not making themselves isolated and watching television. It’s taking the extra step rather than just closing your eyes and drifting off.
Many people as they get older can feel useless and I think that may be an issue. However, I will continue to volunteer in order to keep my interests active. Everything I do is voluntary and volunteering is just a part of my daily life.
Myra Garrett – WHFS Co-Chair, Trustees
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