How Young Volunteers Can Benefit People with Dementia

An innovative programme, aimed at bringing together young people and those living with dementia, has seen over 100 teenagers strike up friendships with older people in day centres and care homes. The volunteers are part of a scheme organised by the charity Young People of the Year (YOPEY), which aims to improve the image of young people in the media and involves the volunteers undertaking training on how to relate to people living with dementia, before spending time visiting and befriending them in care settings operated by the Runwood Homes Group. Read on to learn more about the scheme and how a similar approach could bring benefits to your own service users.

The volunteer befrienders taking part in the YOPEY scheme undertake a range of tasks, including helping service users participate in activities, developing personal histories, or simply chatting and sharing stories. The scheme has been such a success, that some of the volunteers have been inspired to pursue careers in care and the managers of the services involved have been full of praise for the benefits offered to service users. At present, there are approximately 150 befrienders taking part but YOPEY’s founder, Tony Gearing, has plans to develop more schemes in the near future.

4 Steps to Use the YOPEY Befriender Scheme

  1. Build your own links. Consider how your own service can develop links with local organisations that may benefit from developing a similar scheme. Schools, colleges, scout or guide groups and church youth groups, all offer the potential to develop mutually beneficial relationships which offer social opportunities for your service users and the chance for volunteers to develop new skills or experiences.
  2. Offer volunteer opportunities. Actively recruit volunteers in local newspapers or community noticeboards. People are often looking for volunteer opportunities close to home but are unsure where to start looking. By attracting volunteers with strong local connections, you are much more likely to retain them for longer periods.
  3. Celebrate your volunteers. Remember to share the good news about your befriending scheme with others. By celebrating your success through the local press, social media and websites, you will make others aware of your good work and provide useful publicity for both your own and any other organisations involved.
  4. Learn more. Find out more about the scheme and read about examples of the work carried out by the volunteers taking part on the Young People of the Year website.

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