There’s a new initiative from HelpAge International, 60 over 60, calling for nominations of outstanding older people to showcase inspiring people over 60. It got me thinking about volunteers that I have met and how inspirational some of the over 60s were. Whilst working at VSO many of the health volunteers that I posted overseas were in their 60s, and some in their 70s too. These were extremely experienced people with so much to offer in terms of sharing their skills, with a lifetime of professional experience and years spent informally (and sometimes formally) teaching and training others. They also had the maturity to cope with some of the challenging situations and life-change involved in leaving the UK to live in a developing country for 1-2 years. Often, these would be professionals who had reached retirement but were fit and healthy and not ready to spend their days at home. Usually, VSO had been on their mind as a possibility for many years and they were finally in the right position financially and with no family-ties.
I can instantly call to mind a Paediatrician who volunteered in Uganda, Ethiopia and then Lesotho, a Health Visitor who volunteered in Indonesia and a Midwife in Sierra Leone, all in their 60s /70s who could all be nominated for their amazing achievements as volunteers. They didn’t just go and share their skills, they made a real difference to work places, communities and individual people and gained long term friendships. They will return to the countries where they volunteered many times, fundraise for local causes and raise awareness of the issues faced by people amongst their friends, family and networks back home. Their impact will be felt by future generations.
On a related note, I also saw this advert from people and places. It shows that volunteer sending organisations can really capitalise on volunteers who are in the third age and it is a great idea to market themselves this way!