14 October 2020

Paying it forward by driving our seniors is a joy for volunteer drivers

| Sharon Kelley
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Volunteer driver Arthur with passengers Jan and Audrey.

Volunteer driver Arthur with passengers Jan and Audrey. Photo: Supplied.

Woden Community Service is calling for volunteer drivers to support older Canberrans in the community by driving them to appointments or taking them shopping as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

The transport service operates in the Woden Valley and Weston areas for senior community members who are no longer licensed to drive.

Volunteer driver Arthur says the experience is a rewarding one, and that many of the older people who use the service remind him of his mum and dad. He enjoys having a chat while he is driving them to their medical appointments, grocery shopping and social outings.

“A lot of them remind me of my mother, the way they act, the way they are, and it gives me joy to be able to do these little things for them,” he says.

“Once, I decided to take a different route past Parliament House, and I asked them if they’d like to drive around and have a look. A lot of them had never been close to Parliament House.

“I explained a little about how the parliament works, and where everything was, and then I dropped them off at their social group and they didn’t stop talking about it for an hour!

“It was the highlight of their day – it’s as simple as that. It doesn’t take much.”

Woden Community Service aged care services manager Jordan Renneberg says the role of a volunteer driver is a rewarding one and presents an opportunity to pay it forward.

“Our volunteer drivers work with our elderly clients in Woden Valley and Weston Creek, and we primarily get them to medical appointments, groceries and social groups,” she said. “We’re trying to reduce the isolation for people unable to drive.

“We rely heavily on our volunteers to facilitate those outings, and losing your licence and being dependent on others is such an awful transition. But our program enables people to have a little more flexibility and it’s nowhere near as expensive as a cab.

“We ensure we help people with their bags and their groceries, and make sure they are safe at home when they’re dropped off. The volunteers we have are so dedicated.”

Volunteers can drive one of three Toyota Corollas, or one of two 12-seat mini buses. They need a passenger car licence, a Working With Vulnerable People clearance, or the ability to obtain one, and a first-aid certificate, both of which Woden Community Service can help volunteers obtain.

“All of them are automatic vehicles and very easy to drive,” says Ms Renneberg. “We’re encouraging people to volunteer on Mondays and Fridays so we can keep ensuring social distancing, but take all our elderly residents to meet their friends, go to the doctor or do their shopping.

Arthur says his role is very rewarding.

“They’re such a lovely group of people and so appreciative of what you do for them,” he says.

If you would like to volunteer as a driver for Woden Community Service, contact Jordan Renneberg by email or call on 02 6147 3308.

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