Community visitors scheme participants Carmel and Vanessa

The Federal Government-funded Community Visitors Scheme was created to reduce the impact of isolation and loneliness on older Australians, but the volunteer visitors are finding the benefits go both ways. Vanessa Cook has been a volunteer for more than five years. She spends time with 72-year-old Carmel Smith, who shares her love of knitting…and talking.

Vanessa

I had to stop work for health reasons about six or seven years ago and, when I felt up to it, I felt I couldn’t just loll about at home and thought a volunteer scheme that could be flexible would be ideal for me to get out of the house. I wanted to get back out and seeing people without putting too much stress and strain on things as opposed to going back to work.

Carmel is the third person I’ve visited. Originally when I first started, I was visiting a gentleman in this facility and we probably caught up for two and a half years, then I visited a lovely lady in Footscray for a little while until she got transferred to Bacchus Marsh to be closer to her family.

The program is run by the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Limited and they try to find you a good match and, I have to say, the lovely Carmel is my best match yet. Carmel’s a doll. We natter about all sorts of things and swap patterns and ideas on knitting and that sort of stuff, I fix her iPad if she needs it, so there’s a little bit of IT help thrown in there!

I know how important it is to engage with others because I literally shut myself up for close on six years after being diagnosed with MS and it does spiral, because the more you shut yourself off and don’t talk to others the worse you get, so I can really relate to Carmel on a multitude of levels beyond knitting — but we do love talking about knitting.

It’s been really good for me. I went through a bit of a rough trot and I have my own ongoing health issues and challenges, so I love to go out and have a chat. When I got back from holidays in New Zealand, Carmel barely got a word in!

I need to do this. I enjoy it. It’s a different level of engagement, it’s lovely.

Carmel

I moved in here (an aged care facility) in 2011. I love it here. I go to a knitting group of a Tuesday morning and I did go to an activity group, but I stopped after I had my hip replacement and haven’t been back since.

My case manager got me into the Community Visitors’ Program because I stayed in my unit all the time. I’m a bit lonely and I don’t like going to some people’s places because I think I may be disturbing them.

I love Vanessa and I love company. We talk about knitting patterns and I enjoy talking, especially because we have the same interests. I always feel like I’ve had a good afternoon out.

I love the (Community Visitor’s) scheme and, as far as Vanessa is concerned, I look forward to her coming and getting together. She’s special. She’s just a lovely person.