Giving Up Time & Growing Old Instantly
According to NHS advice there are many things we can and should do in order to maintain good mental health. Two of those that I particularly favour are: Connecting with other People eg through volunteering and Doing Something For Yourself like learning a new skill or doing something different.
My penchant for offering my time for free does have its drawbacks as far as running a profitable business is concerned, but it has also had many advantages. Some of my most enjoyable, if bizarre experiences, have happened through giving up my free time and volunteering.
I seem to spend a lot of time trying to convince others to try volunteering and explaining that this does not just mean working in a charity shop or making soup for the homeless (though these are actually two things that are still on my list of things to do!).
On the Isle of Wight we have a Volunteer Centre that can help to find you new opportunities, or approach the hospital or local charities and ask what volunteer opportunities that have.
Volunteering can be done on a one off basis, where you turn up at a set day/time and join a group activity such as picking up litter from the beach with Planet Aware or Sandown Green town Volunteers or, my favourite anecdote/ never again it’s exhausting, experience on the Island, Goat Herding with the National Trust on Ventnor Down
You can volunteer at almost any age – whatever your skill set or personality, there is likely to be something out there for you. You just need to ask.
Last summer we made a film about the volunteers who run the Kashmir Café each year at the IOW Festival, raising much needed money to support the Quay Arts Centre, Newport. This intergenerational group of willing workers, build, decorate and take down the area known as Kashmir; host bands, serve beer, tidy up, dance, make visitors feel welcome and generate a sense of community In return the get access to the Festival, a week of fun (and exhaustion) and a sense of belonging.
At the beginning of this year, I was feeling a bit low, so decided it was time to “do something different”. I wasn’t quite ready for a complete change of lifestyle, so I looked around for something that I could do just for a day… I ended up signing myself up to be a volunteer model at Creative Studios at Pinewood.
As with most new experiences, there was a certain level of anxiety and the need for calming self-talk. Would I find the free minibus that takes you from the Tube station to the film studio? Would I be the only “old person” volunteering? What would it actually involve? The answers came in time: yes, no and just sit still and have someone apply things to your face!
I had three silicone prostheses applied to my face and various layers of glues and make-up, pigments and powders. As I kept my glasses off, I couldn’t really see what she was doing and I simply relaxed sat back and enjoyed the sensation of being pampered! When Jackie had finished I took a closer look and low and behold there was an older version of myself staring back at me in the mirror, complete with age spots and added wrinkles.
I instantly felt like stooping and wrapped a scarf around my head, playing the role of old Italian or Russian peasant. Then I imagined how much fun it would be to go out in disguise … If only I could actually do cartwheels or skateboard.
It renewed my sense of rebellion and I wanted to go out and do something that “older people” don’t often do (or aren’t seen to do!). The ideas were plentiful, but Jackie and her colleagues had a long trip back up north and I had no idea how to remove the make-up myself, so I dutifully sat back down and had it all expertly removed.
It was like an instant rejuvenation process. With the prostheses removed, I felt younger than I had in ages and with a new experience tucked firmly under my belt, I also had a renewed sense of positivity.
The twinkle in my eye that shone out from my wizened face is something that I am determined to keep for as long as possible and I urge you to do the same. Don’t say no to something because you feel you don’t look the part. If you want to have a go at something, take advice, make any adjustments necessary, but make sure you give it a go. Don’t look back on your life and think, if on