A teenage volunteer with West Australian aged care provider Baptistcare has made more than 20 video calls to residents as part of a program to help keep them connected during the COVID-19 restrictions.
Baptistcare called out for virtual volunteers in March to make video calls to residents at its David Buttfield Centre in Gwelup using FaceTime, Skype or Zoom.
Curtin University data science student Aidan McGinty, 19, said he got involved in the program in June last year for mutual benefit.
“At the time I had withdrawn from my university classes and I was looking for something to do to keep connected to people and fill up my day with something that would benefit others and give them purpose,” Mr McGinty told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Mr McGinty said he has made about 25 video calls with residents to date covering topics from sports to hobbies, current affairs, school days and landing a first job.
“The clearest benefit is that it brings the seniors joy to be connected to others through socialising.
“Through regular video calls, I have built friendships with the seniors that might not have been able to do throughout 2020, even before the onset of the pandemic,” he said.
Baptistcare resident and video-call novice Ken Leach, 97, said his video conversations with Mr McGinty helped him feel connected.
“I can’t believe we can communicate this way,” Mr Leach said. “Chatting to Aidan helps keeps my brain active. He’s a real breath of fresh air and I look forward to his calls.”
Baptistcare David Buttfield Centre therapist and leisure partner Clare West said the program has helped forge friendships during a difficult time.
“It was amazing to have our virtual volunteers during lockdown and it’s wonderful the initiative is continuing,” Ms West said.
With the eased visitor restrictions now in place, some virtual volunteers have started visiting the residents in person.
However, volunteers who are unable to visit, including Mr McGinty, are continuing to check-in with the residents virtually.
“It’s just so great that they spend this time online with their companion. Residents absolutely light up when I tell them it’s video calls today,” Ms West said.
The program has involved 12 virtual volunteers since its inception including three current video-callers, a spokesperson from Baptistcare told AAA.
Main image: Volunteer Aidan McGinty on a video call with Baptistcare resident Ken Leach.