In the wake of National Volunteer Week, new research has revealed that Meals on Wheels is helping to tackle social isolation in the elderly and the house-bound.
About 80 per cent of Meals on Wheels 200,000 clients wouldn’t have any meaningful social contact throughout the day if it wasn’t for the volunteer food service.
For many older people living on their own, it’s more than just food delivery – it’s vital social interaction and the difference between having a good or a bad day.
Many clients build up a rapport with their delivery driver, which can develop into a friendship that lasts for years.
It’s not only good for the person receiving the meal, but the deliverer, with research showing a 10 per cent increase in wellbeing for Meals on Wheels volunteers.
When Fremantle local Stephen Meagher retired he wanted to “give something back” and stay connected with the community, so he volunteered for Chorus, a WA charity involved in the Meals on Wheels service.
“I was aware of the great work Meals on Wheels provided through an aunty who was a volunteer with them for over 30 years,” he says.
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning he meets up with other volunteers and kitchen staff at the Palmyra headquarters before heading out to do his deliveries.
“It is great being part of a team with like-minded people – I deliver to the Booragoon, Bateman and Mt Pleasant areas,” Meagher says.
“I deliver to anywhere between 10-20 people per round. We are certainly not like a lot of commercial food delivery services who tend to drop and run.
“In many cases we may be the only visitor our client receives in a day, so our regular visits also act as welfare checks and provide peace of mind for families.
“Our volunteers have regular rounds which means we maintain contact with the same group of clients. In this way we build up a great rapport with the people we visit. We get to know about their lives and they get to know about ours.”
Meagher says some of his elderly clients have lived a colourful and fascinating life.
“Many are so modest and you often find out about extraordinary things they have done in their lives after visiting them for many months or years when they will casually drop something in a conversation.”
Retirement can be a lonely place as folk often have less social interaction and struggle to fill their days, so volunteering has been invaluable for Meagher.
“People often say to me that it is a great job we do and our clients must get so much out of our visits,” he says.
“I can honestly say that I get us much, if not more out of the visits then the people I deliver to.
“I genuinely look forward to visiting my clients to catch up with our shared interests and to find out what they’ve been up to.
“Social connection is so important for our clients but equally so for us volunteers.”
If you are interested in volunteering for Meals on Wheels contact Chorus at email@example.com or call 9435 1379.