At the end of a career maybe others, like me, hope that retirement will stretch ahead like a grassy path leading to a sea view overlooking the glistening horizon.
But how do you fill the days? Suddenly you have a blank diary into which you can pencil as much or as little as you like. Planning for retirement sessions suggested a three way split: continue with some paid work ‘to ease into full-time retirement’, do some voluntary work and pursue your own hobbies and interests. As a retired teacher a bit of ‘coaching’, some volunteering and finding pleasure in gardening, walking the local countryside and being a new long-distance Granny all seemed appealing.
After a year I saw the opportunity that I was waiting for and decided to approach Age UK, filling in an application form to train as an information and advice volunteer and also as a home visitor to assist people filling in the Attendance Allowance form. After being interviewed and DBS checked, I started training last September 2014. The induction was very thorough and well set out. It felt serious enough to be taken as a real job but not in any way difficult to follow. I enjoyed shadowing other home visitors, seeing how they went about filling in the form with elderly applicants or family members. I learnt how to complete the form and enter data on the computer back in the Age UK office. In early March, I started doing visits on my own and have just done my 28th visit. Demand for home visits is so high that I now just do the visits while a team of volunteers provide advice and information from the office.
I soon realised working two mornings a week with Age UK used the skills of my professional career – literacy and talking to people, both tick boxes with me. But there is much more to it than that. The Attendance Allowance form is not for the faint hearted. You need to tackle it with two hours of pen-wielding, introspective determination. Most elderly people do not usually expose their vulnerabilities, let alone answer 50 personal questions in depth. They do not all have the stamina to write answers and self-evaluate. My most recent clients have a joint age of 269, all have mobility problems and live alone. No wonder they asked Age UK to send a scribe!
I drive to rural and not so rural destinations in Bedfordshire and have enjoyed watching the hedgerows emerge, passing by glorious gardens in bloom and ending up in lovely homes. Some folk have lived all their married life in one house – 48 years overlooking green countryside or small, well-tended gardens, now paved and wheelchair friendly. Who would deny two hours to make a person’s life more comfortable? The Attendance Allowance could buy personal care for those who have difficulty showering or using a bath. It can help to keep the house clean or maintain the garden. Most people want to remain in their own home for as long as possible and if I can help them give voice to that appeal, then from that I derive a certain satisfaction.
I have chatted to people about their past working life; engineers of various types, nurses, doctors, cleaners, secretaries, factory workers, ministry officials, a lady who, during the war, was in the Land Army who is writing her memoirs. Ordinary folk with extraordinary lives, deserving some time and help. I had quite a shock when a wet cat launched itself from the draining board behind me and landed on question 16 of 50. No real harm done.
Back in the office to followup is also important to me, just like finding out if students had passed an exam. I like to know if my ‘clients’ have been awarded the Attendance Allowance. It helps me to gauge whether I am enabling people to enhance their care options. It is job satisfaction and rewarding. Then I can catch up with what my grandchildren are doing and hopefully read to them and listen to them, amazed as their language skills develop. Communication is one key to our happiness.
Would you have a few spare hours, days when you would like to help us help older people in Bedfordshire?
We need volunteers that can be trained to offer advice, provide admin work within the office. Visit people in their own homes to complete benefit forms.
• Provide full training to the right candidate.
• Mileage would be paid for visits made.
• You will gain job satisfaction knowing your spare time has helped someone in need of advice or by obtaining much needed benefits for them that will help to improve their life or present situation.
Age UK Bedfordshire need you!