John Steele with one of his In Great Company friends, volunteer Wendy Pratley.
John Steele with one of his In Great Company friends, volunteer Wendy Pratley.

Visitors’ company great gift

IN Great Company does just what it says, matching people who need non-medical support and social connection with like-minded volunteers.

Michele Nassoor has been part of the Gold Coast community visitors program run by Feros Care for about nine months.

At 65 it's her first taste of volunteering and she loves it, visiting, helping out and (in the days of coronavirus) calling a number of people each week.

"They like the company and I just seem to get along with them … we talk and we have a laugh … too easy," she said. "Contact is very important and, while I do have a lot of my own friends around, this is different people, different conversations and it's very enjoyable for me as well."

John Steele, at 89, is one of the people Michele visits.

For about 90 minutes each week, she chats, peels his vegies ready for him to cook, and takes him to do little chores like getting his hair cut, or going to the dentist.

"He's absolutely fantastic," she said of the Coolangatta man who, after several strokes, is unable to use his hands much and had previously been resigned to reheating packaged food from the freezer.

With his parents having met as cooks on a cruise ship, he said fresh food had been a big part of his life and he missed the smell and taste of home-cooked meals.

He recalls another of his volunteer visitors, Wendy, who "turned up with a chocolate cake, a pressure cooker and tins of crushed tomatoes and we made a big chunky stew" full of fresh vegetables.

In Great Company manager Emma Moore said it was clear John's visitors had a big impact.

"He recalls little details about their visits and their lives; he rattles off facts about their families, their likes and dislikes," she said.

Of the almost 300 volunteers from Wide Bay to Tasmania, about a third of them were over 60, she said, and since the COVID-19 crisis hit, 167 new volunteers had signed up.

In response to the aged care restrictions around coronavirus, another volunteer program has also begun, with health-checked visitors helping residents to connect digitally to families and the outside world.

Whether you are on, waiting for a Home Care Package, or in residential care, In Great Company can help with a host of activities.

This includes tasks around the home or garden, playing cards or games, going to appointments or for a walk, discovering or rediscovering a craft or hobby, enjoying music or movies together or learning to use technology.

"What you and your volunteer do together is up to you," Emma said.

In John's case, that also meant in 2019 having his first Christmas lunch in 30 years with other people - invited to join in the traditional feast with residents and staff at Feros Care Residential Village at Wommin Bay.

To find out more about In Great Company, go to ingreatcompany.com.au or phone Feros Care on 07 5669 0555.