Home | Specialty Focus | ‘I want to be a part of this’: 16-year-old’s rewarding aged-care experience
High school student Alana Leahy (left) playing dominoes with Lorna (right). Picture: Supplied.

‘I want to be a part of this’: 16-year-old’s rewarding aged-care experience

A year 11 student’s volunteering experience at HammondCare made her realise she wanted to continue giving to the aged care sector.

Alana Leahy, a 16-year-old Sydney high school student, needed to complete her hours for the gold Duke of Edinburgh International Award, so she decided to set time aside at HammondCare Wahroonga – only to realise she wanted to stay.

“Working at HammondCare has been an extremely rewarding experience,” Alana said.

“One thing that surprised me is the sheer fun I’ve had.”

“It might sound a bit unusual, but the residents have an incredible ability to make me laugh and smile.”

Growing up, Alana had seen the positive impact volunteering could have. Her grandfather volunteered at her grandmother’s aged-care home to sing songs to the residents.

“I have seen the effect of volunteering on the lives of the residents, and I really wanted to be a part of this.”

The 16-year-old spent her time “hanging out” with residents at Wahroonga, such as 103-year-old Lorna Howard.

Their time together was spent stacking and unstacking Jenga blocks as Lorna recalled her life experiences to Alana.

“I got a lot of good advice,” Alana laughed.

The laughter, singing, and dancing allowed Alana to visualise a future for herself in the aged-care sector.

The impact of volunteering has stayed with the 16-year-old, and she now wants to encourage others to do the same.

“I enjoy the company of the residents and would like to help them as much as I can,” she told Aged Care Insite.

“I would love to work in the head office someday when I graduate from university.”

Volunteering promotes intergenerational relationships, which have been reported to be psychologically and socially beneficial for everyone involved.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that over half of older people living in residential aged care showed signs of depression.

Promoting intergenerational relationships through programs such as volunteering may help to counter negative mental health effects, with research showing promising results.

Belinda Holst, head of volunteer services at HammondCare, said volunteering was a win-win situation for everyone involved.

“Residents appreciate the endless energy and enthusiasm from young people,” Ms Holst said.

“At the same time, students learn valuable life lessons and skills from the residents while completing their hours for awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh.”

“In some cases, it can also lead to consideration of a pathway into a rewarding career in aged care.”

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