Volunteering is supposed to be a great way that one can give back to his/her community. Not to mention that volunteer work looks great on a resume. Why then, are organizations making volunteering hard to do for certain age groups?
After my dog, Adriel, became a certified Therapy Dog, I could not wait to start visiting places with her. I had big dreams about taking her to hospitals and nursing homes where she could spread some joy to those in need. Little did I know what an undertaking this would be.
I contacted a hospice organization in St. Louis, Missouri and was told that I would have to attend a two hour training session that took place at 10:00 a.m. on a week day. I really wanted to join, but, I have a job. How was I going to be able to become a volunteer if I could not take off time from work? This made me a bit angry at the organization. Why are these training sessions only offered during the day? Couldn’t a night session be offered?
I was met with similar circumstances when attempting to join a hospital volunteer group. Not only was there another two hour training session to go to, but, I would need to schedule a second appointment for a physical/interview. This also involves a two-step TB test in which I had to get the initial test, but then go back in two weeks to have another test administered. These tests need to be read by one of the staff during the hours of 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. How are young, working individuals supposed to “make time” for all of this?
When I arrived at both of the orientations, I took a good look around me and noticed something. All of the volunteers were older people between the ages of 55-75. I was the youngest volunteer in the room. This made me sad because I began to think that people my age might not care about volunteering. Then I realized, volunteer work seems to be gauged more towards people in this specific age group. But why?
I understand that many people that age are retired. They would have the most amount of free time at their disposal. This would also help to explain why they would be able to attend the training sessions/testing that takes place during normal business hours. So, should people my age just not volunteer?
Though my time with the hospice organization in St. Louis was brief, I discovered something remarkable. The elderly people that I visited loved to see me and Adriel. I think that the elderly enjoy seeing younger people because it makes them think back to when they themselves were young and brings back positive memories. One patient in particular loved to hear my newlywed stories.
I believe that by tailoring volunteer work to only the retired and elderly populations, we are excluding a generation that could positively impact those that are affected by such work. New perspectives that could be gained are lost. Smiles that could be shared are never seen. This is why volunteer organizations need to strive for more accommodations for the younger, employed individual who wants to donate his/her time to a worthy cause.