Age UK Norfolk is always on the lookout for volunteers to offer support, information and advice to older people on a wide range of issues. Here, retired journalist David Wakefield tells how he became a volunteer...and ended up in a strangely familiar area....
'It’s a strange thing, retirement. People have their own ideas on what it entails – providing, of course, that one is lucky enough to reach retirement age in reasonable health.
Some have a definitive path mapped out; others go down the ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ route of endless leisure, time on the golf course, holidays in the sun etc. And some decide to do, well, nothing at all.
If that suits, then it’s fine.
Realism is often completely different.
After half a century working on local newspapers I had no firm plans. As my wife is younger it was obvious that we wouldn’t be retiring together. And fate, as is often the case, took a hand: My first grandchild had come along and, with my retirement, came that time when his mum was able to return to her part-time job.
Thus a couple of days a week of my first “free and easy” summer was spent looking after baby Luke – trips to the park, organising nappy changes, feeds and afternoon naps.
Not that it was a hardship; I had never assumed there would be grandchildren although I had secretly hoped there would be!
The pattern was repeated when Luke’s sister Ava came along three years later. This, interspersed with freelance work, kept me busy enough.
Luke, though, is now 11. I seemed to have finished with freelance work, so what was someone still enjoying reasonable health, and fully mobile, to do?
When a former colleague, now working for Age UK Norwich, persuaded me to have a go at volunteering, I was unsure.
Was I really cut out for this? My skill sets, such as they were, involved newspaper production and writing.
I “took the plunge” however, at Age UK Norfolk, and couldn’t really believe how things have turned out.
Initially I had no idea where I could best be deployed. My path seemed to lead to Money Matters – advising on financial issues etc, although I had some experience of dealing with an older relative with early signs of dementia.
But then it turned out that some help was needed on the Age UK Norfolk media and publicity side. Would I, I was asked, very nicely, be interested in putting my journalistic skills to use?
So that’s how I now find myself producing newsletters, helping to develop links between Age UK Norfolk and the local media, and meeting and talking to some interesting people...all with a view to getting the Age UK Norfolk message across.
It’s turned out well for me, and I would only ask anyone else thinking of volunteering to have a go. At Age UK Norfolk you will be dealing with lovely people; and there is no compunction upon you to do more than you think you can.
Most retired people still have a lot to offer – something that our transatlantic cousins have long since cottoned on to. In the USA seniors are noticeable in taking an active part in all walks of voluntary life, as well as in paid and responsible positions.
Don’t let those years of experience go to waste. Someone, somewhere, will be very grateful that you didn’t. The salary is zero: the job satisfaction is massive.'
Become a volunteer with Age UK Norfolk