Volunteering is a powerful tool to build community engagement and reduce social isolation and loneliness. It can also serve as a path to skill-building, empowerment and self-advocacy. Volunteering can improve mental health by creating access to social and psychological resources that build resiliency against depression and anxiety.1
Arizona’s Long-Term Care Member Empowerment team – called the me* team –coordinates volunteer activities for Long-Term Care members and Case Managers to attend together. The purpose of the program is to reduce social isolation and loneliness, and to help members address individual and systemic barrier to volunteering. Ultimately, the me* team strives for members to become more integrated and connected within their local community.
Case Managers connect Long-Term Care members with local community organizations that are looking for volunteers. They also work with members to understand their individual interests and strengths. If needed, Case Managers help members navigate barriers to participation like transportation and work with community organizations to modify volunteer roles to fit each member’s abilities.
These organizations provide opportunities for members to make meaningful contributions and connections. Recent activities include:
- Members from a behavioral health group home volunteering at a thrift store that helps teachers and students in Tempe obtain supplies. The group sorted through donations and stocked shelves with supplies like backpacks, crayons, and books.
- Residents at an Assisted Living Facility enjoyed a virtual tour of a local pet shelter and crafted over 100 pet toys that were delivered to local shelters.
- Residents at a memory care facility worked with a Case Manager and facility staff to create an on-site garden to kick off the spring season. The group pulled weeds and planted new flowers just outside of the Memory Care Unit so that residents can continue to maintain and enjoy the garden throughout the year.
- Members from a behavioral health day program and Case Managers came together to hand-pack over 100 boxes of food. The food boxes will serve 21,816 meals for children in need.
Each event allows members to make a positive impact in their local community. Through these experiences, members can build relationships, forming social networks and reducing the risk of social isolation and loneliness.
Volunteering can do more than just impact the community. It can help members build relationships, gain a sense of purpose, and find meaningful opportunities to use their unique skills and strengths. This is one way the me* Team helps members become more empowered and integrated within their local communities.