As we begin a fresh new year, it can be a wonderful time for many people to set their goals for 2023 or put their New Year resolutions to the test. For senior Victorians, this may include making new friends, learning new skills, or giving back to a meaningful cause. What if there was a way you could achieve all three and more? There is – community participation, through things like volunteering or joining community groups.
The benefits of community participation
Community participation is so much more than a New Year resolution. It’s a powerful way to improve our mental and physical wellbeing, offering a range of benefits to both you and your community.
As human beings, we are programmed to need connection to others, to feel like we belong and contribute. However, for some senior Victorians, connection with people can become quite different after retirement, when our working relationships are no longer part of our day-to-day lives, or at key life transition points such as becoming a carer. This of course can take a real toll on our wellbeing.
One very common and effective approach is to think about volunteering or joining a local community group. This can be a fantastic way to build new friendships and gain new skills. Depending on the activity you choose, it can also be a great way to keep active and exercise, without it feeling like hard work. Community participation can also help us build confidence and develop a great sense of fulfilment that comes with giving back.
There’s a range of ways you can connect with your community, in a way that suits your interests and availability. Here are some ideas to get you started.
There are so many different ways people can volunteer these days, so you’re bound to find something in your area that appeals to your passions.
It’s also important to understand you don’t have to give up half your week when volunteering. You can often chip in as little as an hour a fortnight, if that’s what suits you.
There’s such a great range of opportunities out there, you can put your existing skills into action or learn something new. From getting involved with group arts and crafts, helping out a sporting group, or supporting emergency services, you can even volunteer online in the comfort of home.
Beyond volunteering, there are many community organisations you can join to connect with others while contributing to your community in a meaningful way.
For instance, joining a men’s shed is a great way to meet like-minded people in your community, and learn new skills, such as woodwork and bike repairs. Many projects run by men’s sheds are developed for the community, too, like building community garden beds and public bench seats.
Another great way to enrich your life through learning and connection is by attending courses or social activities run by U3As. U3As (also known as University of the Third Age), provide low-cost learning to older people to encourage an active and engaged lifestyle, Australia wide. Classes are incredibly varied too, from arts and literature, to current affairs, history and yoga.
Similarly, neighbourhood houses play a really important role in most communities, offering a range of critical services like food relief and other support, as well as some fantastic adult classes, from computer literacy or language classes, through to health, fitness and cooking.
Whether you’re a participant or a volunteer helping to run things, neighbourhood houses are a great way to connect with your community.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg – Life Activity Clubs, Probus, Senior Citizens and cultural clubs are some of the other options out there.
There are also many citizen clubs and wellbeing groups that are specifically for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, such as the . You can read more about resources that are available to connect multicultural communities by visiting the .
If you’re interested in joining a local community group or volunteer-run organisation, visit or call your local library or council to learn about options in your area.
Reviewed 05 April 2023