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Royal Voluntary Service blog
Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.

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How making health changes could help people avoid Dementia and ill health

As we grow older, many of us become concerned about developing dementia. Especially if we have cared for a parent, relative or friend with dementia, we want to feel like we have the power to change our own fate.

Recent guidance published by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggests that there are ways in which dementia might be prevented or delayed by choices we make in our mid-life (40-70’s).

There is no question that leading a healthy lifestyle in your mid-life will have a positive impact on your later years, but the ageing process is not fixed. Some people will experience dementia in their 50’s and others won’t be affected until their 90’s. It’s vital to maintain moderate physical activity and cognitive stimulation on a regular basis to delay frailty, whatever your age.

Volunteering is a great way of staying physically and mentally active post retirement. Many of our volunteers tell us that they have been given a new lease of life, as well as a sense of purpose at time when their social roles are changing.

Social and mental stimulation not only has positive impact on our volunteers but also for the older people they are caring for. Conversation or social stimulation for an older person, who maybe only has one visitor a week, can have a huge impact on their morale and mental wellbeing. And for those living with dementia, our volunteers can provide a break to their partner or family member so they can have some time to themselves for a short while.

As dementia remains high on the health agenda, Royal Voluntary Service is looking at ways in which we can better support those living with dementia and their carers. Alongside our work providing on-ward support for patients with dementia and home support services, we are going to be trialing a new dementia service in Oxfordshire and elsewhere which offer activities that are focused on cognitive and physical stimulation. Together we want to improve the well-being of those living with dementia and their carers.

Volunteering is a great place to start. To find out more about opportunities in your area visit our volunteering section.

Posted by Dr Allison Smith, Head of Strategy and Development, Royal Voluntary Service at 00:00 Monday, 30 November 2015.

Labels: Dementia

Making the most of retirement

Retirement has changed beyond recognition in recent years. The good news is that we are generally living longer and healthier lives so we should be able to enjoy a more active retirement; the bad news is that we need more substantial savings to fund retirement.

The Rough Guide to Retirement eBook, the fourth edition in the Rough Guide to Personal Finance series, provides useful and straight-forward guidance to help people prepare and enjoy retirement – whether you’re in your twenties saving into a pension, or approaching retirement and considering your options.

Sponsored by Legal & General, the guide is also filled with valuable tips to help retirees make the most of their retirement. We’ve selected our top three tips to give you a preview of the eBook:

Plan a routine to get used to your new-found freedom

No early morning alarm call and no working late or at weekends – many people relish the fact that retirement gives them time to pursue interests and hobbies. However, many find the move from a structured working day to unfettered free time difficult to manage. The key is to plan an effective routine so be sure to set activities each day.

Share your knowledge

There may be opportunities to share the skills and expertise you’ve gained through your working life. If you have a specific skill or interest, think about approaching an organisation – such as a charity, a museum or a school – as a volunteer. The Royal Voluntary Service is always on the look-out for more volunteers to help support older people in a variety of ways, whether providing company to someone isolated, a lift to the shops to someone housebound, a visit to hospital to a patient that may not have seen anyone for weeks or distributing Meals or Books on Wheels.

Keep your body and brain active

Learn a new skill, join a sports club, or sign up for evening or day classes.

Most local councils run a number of sports clubs and exercise classes for those retired or semi-retired, many at concessionary rates. This is likely to include week¬ly walks, ballroom dancing, bowls, swimming, zumba, tennis and so on.

If you don’t want to join an organised group, taking daily walks or gardening on a regular basis can make a significant difference to overall fitness.

For more information on planning for and enjoying retirement, download the free Rough Guide to Retirement eBook at roughguidefinance.com

This post also appeared on Blog post for Legalandgeneral.com/live

Posted by at 00:00 Friday, 09 October 2015.

Retirement has not been a time for me to slow down!

Pennie and Jack - Royal Voluntary ServiceWhen I was a working full time, I didn’t give much thought to how I would pass the time during my retirement. I have always been a busy person with lots of hobbies and interests so the fact that I would have more time to do these things when I retired seemed like a positive thing to me. Retirement has not been a time for me to slow down, I’m fortunate enough to be in good health, so I’m living my retirement to the full and I’m enjoying lots of new things especially volunteering with the Royal Voluntary Service.

I previously worked in a role providing signposting information to older people and was always frustrated that I could not further this to a ‘hands on’ experience. I could see what needed to be done (popping out for some bread, sorting out a bill, arranging a trip to the opticians etc) but I was unable to do it under the terms of my contract.

I started volunteering for Royal Voluntary Service in 2013 and through my role I met an older gentleman called Jack. His family were convinced that he had lost contact with the world because of his isolation – he spent most of his time alone.

Jack and I now meet up once a week for a few hours and plan our activity for the day. Jack has limited mobility so we need to tailor our activities to his needs. One favourite is a trip to Waitrose where we can park near the lift and he can use a shopping trolley for stability. This trip gives him a feeling of independence, of being able to make his own food choices and also there is social interaction with the supermarket staff.

This summer, we have visited various cafes for coffee and cake in the countryside. If it is wet or Jack is feeling tired we stay in, put the world to rights, play draughts (he has been a great Bridge player in the past but I can’t match that!), look at old photos, plan menus, look at the messages on his tablet, discuss what is happening with his family, sort out any issues with his post etc. Jack has carers in each day but I also keep an eye on any health issues and report to the family who visit on a regular basis but all live too far away to make it a daily event. We have constant contact and they are really positive in their feedback, in particular they say that Jack has become far more ‘engaged’ with life in general rather than presenting an image of someone who had given up on life.

I am lucky because we have formed a bond and our meetings are a pleasure to me. He is an intelligent, articulate man and I enjoy seeing him relating to the world as it is but also being able to share with me things as they used to be.

Spending time with Jack has been one of the most positive and fun ways to spend my retirement.

Pennie, Royal Voluntary Service Volunteer

Posted by Pennie, Royal Voluntary Service Volunteer at 00:00 Thursday, 01 October 2015.

Labels: Older People's day

Harnessing the power of young people to transform health and social care services

The #iwill campaign has developed recommendations for health and social care organisations that will enable more young people to support the vital services they provide.

Today, a new report from the #iwill campaign highlights the potential value of increasing social action opportunities for under-20s in health and social care settings, and has produced a set of recommendations on doing this. Volunteers are crucial in health and social care, and there is increasing evidence that volunteering can help transform health and social care services, and bring about real improvements for patients and the wider public. By opening up more opportunities for young people to volunteer, campaign, and fundraise in health and social care settings, a new generation could be developed who are more aware of how to look after themselves and those around them.

As one of the 20 organisations across the UK included in the report we described how we involve young volunteers in a variety of services that help older people in a number of setting whether it be in a hospital or when they get back home after a stay in hospital.

We work with young people over the age of 14, offering additional supervision for those under 16.

Typically, roles can include:

On ward volunteers – working with social care services in hospitals, befriending and running errands

Home from Hospital – companionship, befriending and accompanying people to social events.

Good Neighbours – includes gardening, putting shopping away or just popping round to say hello!

Read the full report, Youth Social Action in Health and Social Care

Posted by ld at 00:00 Thursday, 24 September 2015.

Labels: Young people

Working together to help older people

Older people are living much longer, which is a huge reason to celebrate, especially for those of us in our fifties.

But the number of older people with long-term health conditions has increased dramatically and with the increasing cuts in social care they are at greater risk of having a health crisis and ending up in A&E. Sadly once in hospital, it is harder for them to go back home and make a full recovery, meaning that they struggle to return to their previous life as a positive and contributing member of their local community.

Many have their discharge from hospital delayed because the nursing team doesn’t feel confident that the support is in place once they are home. Others leave a little too early because their bed is required for someone with a more urgent need and then it’s a very short journey to being readmitted to hospital a few weeks down the line.

This is all too common and a report the charity produced (assisted by health think-tank the Kings Fund), identified that older people returning home from hospital without enough support are more than twice as likely to be readmitted within three months1.

Previously families would step into the breach, but today it’s not always possible. Many children don’t live near their older parents and even if they do, they have their own lives to live plus work and childcare commitments to juggle. This isn’t about neglect, it’s about modern reality.

But the good news is that help once given by a family member can be provided by a volunteer who can step into the gap and offer that vital support to help an older person’s recovery.

Our Home from Hospital service places a caring volunteer at the centre of an older person’s recovery plan. The volunteer gets to know the older person when they are in hospital; takes them home and then provides them with the practical support they need to get back on their feet. They make sure the house is warm, that there is food in the fridge and that they have a way of getting to their follow-up GP appointments. Then when they are better that same volunteer helps them gain confidence to get back out into the community by attending a lunch club or going to a social event.

But don’t just take our word for it. Previous research has found that older people supported by our charity’s Home from Hospital service after a stay in hospital were 50 per cent, yes 50 per cent, less likely to be readmitted compared to the national average¹.

Yet while the evidence proves this support can make all the difference the reductions in state funding means that even more of these new models of care are required. It’s not just volunteers and charities who need to step up in these challenging times – it’s all parts of society: national government, local government, neighbourhoods and business too.

More support from the corporate sector is needed to strengthen our hospitals and our communities and to provide the support that was once naturally provided by the state. Let’s be clear, this isn’t about privatisation, far from it; it’s about the fact that we are all citizens and all patients and the organisations in which we work are full of people from our local communities.

Forward thinking company, Legal and General, with a robust corporate social responsibility strategy that is tackling today’s urgent social needs has committed to funding an invaluable new Home from Hospital service, laying down the gauntlet that we can only hope other major corporations will pick up. Thanks to their support, we will be setting up a new Home from Hospital service in the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, and helping more older people to go home and get back on their feet.

Let’s hope others follow their lead.

This post also appears on legalandgeneral.com

Posted by David McCullough, CEO Royal Voluntary Service at 00:00 Tuesday, 04 August 2015.

Labels: Home from Hospital

The importance of getting connected in this technological age

In this day and age, technology is everywhere and an integral part of our lives. We’re seeing older people becoming more tech-savvy, but it is still the case that many are missing out on the benefits of new technology.

Modern technology has great potential to deliver benefits to older people. However, we know that many feel left behind by the pace of change and the support needed to become familiar with it. Even as someone who once worked in the mobile phone sector and uses technology on a daily basis, I am amazed at the speed and regularity that it develops. As soon as you think you’ve grasped the way a gadget works, a newer shinier version becomes available!

EE techy Tea Party From making video calls to sending text messages, technology allows me to stay in touch with my family and friends across the globe. For those families who do not live near to each other, technology can bridge the gap between visits – it will never be a replacement for face to face contact – but it can mean conversation and interaction on a regular basis.

As we move into an ever growing digital society, more and more information and services are made available exclusively online. There are so many benefits for retirees that many older people are not accessing whether it’s finding a local lunch club, or sourcing health information online.

It’s easy to lose patience with technology and just stick to what you know – many of us are tempted to do that. Sometimes you just need someone to explain the basics and away you go.

I’m delighted that we’ve partnered with mobile network operator, EE and their NationalTechy Tea Party Day to do just that. From sending emails to exploring the internet – thousands of EE staff will be on hand in their stores on the 8 September to offer one on one support and advice about using technology. It’s time to dig out that gadget you got for Christmas and learn how to use it once and for all! I will be linking with my local EE store to see what they can offer me and other people in the Bedford area.

Sign up now on-line at ee.co.uk/techyteaparty to join a Techy Tea Party where you live or ask a friendly Royal Voluntary Service Manager or volunteer to help sign you up.

John Pearson, Chief Operating Officer

Posted by John Pearson, Cheif Operating Officer at 00:00 Tuesday, 28 July 2015.

Why we value Investing in Volunteers

Investing in VolunteersWe have just received the great news that we have retained our Investing in Volunteers Status (IiV). This is a quality standard that recognises our commitment to high quality volunteering standards and checks that we are providing this to those who volunteer for us.

The assessors visited a number of our volunteers in a selection of services in England, Scotland and Wales to hear what it is like to volunteer with Royal Voluntary Service. An online survey was also used to gather feedback and to find out how we matched up to the standard.

So we’ve achieved the standard but also received valuable feedback on how we can do even better in certain areas. This will be really useful as we seek to improve the volunteer experience further.

Throughout Royal Voluntary Service, our volunteers deliver incredibly valuable support to older people in their communities and in hospital. They are the backbone of the charity and have been for over 75 years. We have always got opportunities for volunteers who want to use their skills to help us and as our IiV accreditation shows, we’ll do our best to provide good volunteering in return.

We are really grateful for all our volunteers, the time they give and the work they do delivering such a fantastic service to older people. Going forward, we recognise there is so much more we can do so we’d love to have more volunteers on board helping provide more of the practical support that is so appreciated. And having achieved IiV again we want to build on this and provide an even better volunteer experience.

Richard Bragg, Volunteer Partner

Posted by Richard Bragg, Volunteer Partner at 14:00 Wednesday, 15 July 2015.

Labels: Volunteering

Royal Voluntary Service and the Men’s Sheds Association team up

Royal Voluntary Service has teamed up with the UK Men’s Sheds Association to get men out of the house and into a shed.

One thing that we feel passionate about is helping retired people keep mentally and physically active; and more than half of men and women over the age of 65 believe that continuing to take part in a hobby has helped them to do just that.

The Men’s Sheds Association provides a communal space for men to indulge hobbies and practical interests, be it woodworking, gardening or even building a car!

Men socialize a lot less once they have retired with almost half saying that they only socialise once or twice a month. It’s a real generalisation but true I think, that lots of men are identified by their jobs (speaking as one myself), so the loss of a job through ill-health or just through retirement is often a big blow to men’s confidence and sense of their own purpose. That’s why it’s great to visit the sheds and see men working, talking and doing something good for their communities – it just makes me smile.

Men feel like it is their space to be independent, somewhere they can use their skills to help others, look after each other, or just have a nice cup of tea.

What the shedders say:

"It gives me a reason to get up in the morning and for two days a week I feel I’m gainfully employed. I really feel good working with and helping chaps who often feel isolated in the community. I would need a very good reason not to come."

Bill, 67

What the shedders say:

“It’s great to learn new skills, get advice and sit and have a chat.”


Social isolation is quite common amongst retirees and if the community activities on offer do not appeal, and if sports or going down to their local does not suit them, it can be quite hard to find a place to socialise and meet new people.

Increasing the number of interactive spaces where men can socialise has the potential to provide that vital companionship, and just knowing that there are going to be other men there, helps them feel more comfortable going to the venue.

Men are often quite reluctant to use the traditional services provided by charities as they feel it will impact their independence, but with 8 out of 10 men saying they would prefer to socialise around a common interest, partnering with such an amazing organisation made absolute sense.

What the shedders say:

“Fixing, making and re-using materials has given me the motivation to improve my rented home. It improved my mental state and it gave me hope.”


What the shedders say:

“The Shed lifted my life. Finding the Shed came at a good time, I was low.”


Posted by at 14:00 Thursday, 02 July 2015.

Labels: Men’s Sheds Association