How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Some nursing home residents do not have children or close relatives living nearby. Subsequently, they rarely receive visitors. Even the most highly-regarded nursing home can be a lonely place without outside support. Volunteers assist residents in staying connected to the community and lend a crucial hand in filling their human need for companionship.

The types of duties volunteers perform can vary. Some individuals utilize their talents by singing, while others play musical instruments. Some exhibit their culinary acumen in cooking demonstrations, while others connect by leading activities such as bingo, cards, newsletter writing, informational seminars, or prayer groups.

One-on-one volunteerism in a nursing home is also important. These individuals might share conversation with a resident, take walks in or around the facility, play board games, read books, help create a memory board with valued mementos such as greeting cards, photos, and pictures. Almost any wholesome hobby can be shared, and residents enjoy the activity and savor the companionship.

Volunteering in a nursing home could also mean assisting the staff. Duties such as meal allocation, transporting patients from one part of the facility to another, or perhaps even passing out juice, provide much appreciated service. Nursing home personnel are very grateful when volunteers assist them.

If you’ve decided you might like to become a volunteer, the information below should provide some helpful tips to get started.

  • Perform a search of nursing home facilities in your local area (maybe using the Internet or phone book).
  • Select several nursing homes that seem interesting to you and call or visit. Make sure to inquire as to the volunteer programs available and training (if necessary).
  • Provide the staff with a schedule of your availability. Some volunteers work once a month. Other individuals work once a week. While a few work several times a week.
  • If it is within your ability, keep to your schedule. Both the resident and nursing home staff look forward to your arrival.
  • If something beyond your control should arise, alert the facility.

Volunteering reaps numerous rewards not only for the nursing home resident but also the unpaid helper. It is very gratifying to know that you have shared your talent, knowledge, and time, with someone in need. Volunteers are essential to any community because they set an example of selflessness and love. Now what can be more inspiring than that?

To volunteer at Knollwood Nursing Center, we can be reached weekdays from 9-6 at 508-853-6910 or weekends from 9-3. We’re always looking for volunteers!

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Are you looking to volunteer in a nursing home? Lucky for you, the process of volunteering is generally quite simple, depending of course on any regulations that the nursing home might have. What’s more, nursing home staff appreciate the help as much as the residents themselves.

During my time working in a nursing facility and other long-term care facilities, volunteers were usually family members who would come in to visit their loved one and simultaneously help out by engaging with others, helping pass meals, etc. Many other volunteers would come in to help Activity Directors through games, singing, or playing music.

Here is how you can go about preparing to volunteer your time and energy for others.

Can I be a nursing home volunteer near me?

If you’re asking this question, the short answer is “almost certainly.” Every organization loves a good volunteer, and nursing homes are no exception. Follow these steps outlined below to learn more.

Determine the Requirements

Every nursing home is going to have different requirements for volunteers. Your first step is to visit your nursing home and see what requirements they may have in place.

Most requirements are quite simple. Many consist of the basics:

Enjoy being around older people. The nursing home will want volunteers who will be welcoming and kind to the residents. They don’t want people who will play favorites or not spend time with certain residents. Treat everyone with respect and dignity.

Age requirements. As with most volunteering opportunities, you probably need to be of a certain age to volunteer. If you do not meet the minimum age requirement, perhaps you could accompany an adult to help with volunteering under their direct supervision. Adults can often bring in children as well, and residents love to see young faces running around!

Play games. Senior homes need people who are able to play games, specifically card games or any game that will test the intellect of the residents. Being skilled, competitive, but not too competitive will stand you in good stead with the nursing home.

Responsible. Are you honest and trustworthy? Can you look someone in the eye and respond to them? Can you safely maneuver a wheelchair around and help residents to avoid slips and falls? Exhibiting responsible behaviors is key to being a good volunteer.

Volunteer Duties in a Nursing Home

Each nursing home will have its own duties. You may be asked to shout out bingo numbers, help tidy up residents rooms, or just spend time with the residents and interact with them while the nurses care for them.

You’ll want to build a relationship both with the residents and with the nursing home staff. Show up on time, dress neatly, be flexible, and be prepared to help out in any way that you can.

Nursing Home Volunteer Training

Some nursing homes may require training to volunteer. Training is simple, and probably specialized, depending on the seniors and the nursing home they inhabit. If you work specifically in hospice care, having training will help you better interact with residents and their families. You’ll need to have empathy as well as know the right things to say. Because hospice is difficult on everyone involved, having the proper training will help you as the volunteer better help the people you work with.

Alternative Volunteer Work

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

A therapy dog visiting a man in a nursing home (Air Force photo).

Not all volunteers have two legs! As pet therapy becomes more and more popular, people enjoy seeing and interacting with all sorts of animals. Dogs are generally the first choice, but having a friendly, well-trained cat will make a cat lover’s day. Find out if your pet qualifies for volunteer work and bring them along to help support and encourage nursing home residents.

Pay a Visit to Your Local Nursing Home

If you want to volunteer in a nursing home, your first step is to take a step inside the door and see what they need. After that, it’s up to you, but remember that volunteering is fulfilling and enjoyable work and an opportunity to learn more about others.

By EveryNurse Staff on June 10, 2021

Volunteer abroad programs provide you with the opportunity to gain invaluable nursing experience while bringing much-needed assistance to communities in need.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

The need for medical and healthcare volunteers exists worldwide in communities where marginalized groups and under-served populations have inadequate healthcare, infrastructure, and clinical expertise to address the issues they are facing. Nursing, medical, and other healthcare professionals with specialized skills can assist local staff in numerous ways, such as providing vaccinations and HIV testing, educating children and families about nutrition and disease prevention, providing check-ups, and promoting wellness.

You Can Make a Difference

To participate in a medical or healthcare volunteer program, you don’t necessarily have to have a medical degree or nursing license, as requirements vary by program. Many organizations accept volunteers for programs that do not require a credentialed healthcare professional and extend invitations to pre-med, nursing, and health-science students. In these roles, volunteers often help with logistical, administrative, and lingual support or community outreach initiatives. Regardless of your professional status, you will be asked to apply your skills and passion towards the betterment of people who need it most.

Why Volunteer?

If you know someone who has traveled internationally to volunteer, you have probably already heard about how life-changing the experience can be. Volunteering allows you to be a part of something bigger than yourself, empower others, and contribute to the kind of world you want to live in every day. If hearing stories about incredible volunteer experiences makes you think about whether you should volunteer abroad too, here is a list of inspiring reasons for you to take the next step.

  • Make a positive impact on the life of someone less fortunate than you. Volunteering your time to support a cause or help others in need is an opportunity for you to grow as a person. Giving to those who are less fortunate doesn’t just make the world better – it will enrich your life and make you better. Studies repeatedly show that the act of giving boosts your health, happiness, and sense of well-being.
  • Learn about the healthcare practices and discrepancies of standards in developing countries. What factors have the greatest impact on the quality of care in developing countries? What can be done to improve clinical practice and raise the acceptable standard for treatment in resource-limited countries? Volunteering abroad provides you with an opportunity to learn first-hand about how gaps in knowledge, inappropriate applications of technology, infrastructure, and alternatives to conventional medicine impact the quality of health services.
  • Gain new skills, experience, knowledge, confidence, and self-esteem. Immersing yourself in a community is a great way to broaden your perception of the world and develop new skills. Volunteering will enhance qualities you already possess like patience, compassion, and resilience. Working alongside a diverse group of people will also improve your communication and interpersonal skills and help you discover a new passion or interest.
  • Meet new people, make new friends, and establish new connections. Surrounding yourself with people who are dedicated to improving others’ lives will give you a unique sense of purpose and allow you to broaden your network of friends. These connections will positively impact your perspective and help you develop an open-minded view of people from different walks of life.
  • Counteract the effects of anxiety and stress. Studies show that people who volunteer regularly are healthier both mentally and physically. Human beings are hard-wired to be helpful to others. The more we give, the happier we feel. The social aspect of helping and working with others can have a meaningful impact on your overall mood and psychological well-being by reducing stress and anxiety.

Featured Volunteer Organizations

Volunteering is a profound experience that allows you to make an impact and connect with communities in need. Choose from our shortlist of featured volunteer programs and take the first step towards making a difference in others’ lives.

Love Volunteers Love Volunteers works closely with local organizations and charities in disadvantaged communities to offer cost-effective volunteer and intern abroad opportunities.
Project Hope The global staff from Project Hope are on the ground in more than 25 countries, working together with medical volunteer teams and public health partners to transform the health and well-being of communities in need.
Global Volunteers Global Volunteers is an internationally recognized and respected non-profit leader that has mobilized volunteers to serve youth and families in hundreds of communities in 35 countries on six continents.
Volunteering Journeys Volunteering Journeys provides safe, authentic, and personalized volunteering programs in developing communities in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, and Peru, where they have deep local knowledge and ground expertise.
International Volunteer HQ Every year IVHQ places over 3,000 volunteers in medical volunteer projects across 15 destinations worldwide. Students, nurses, and medical professionals at every stage and skill level are encouraged to apply.

Financial Aid for Volunteering Abroad

Most students and professionals hoping to volunteer abroad report travel costs as the most significant barrier to participating in international programs. The prospect of purchasing flights, obtaining travel insurance, paying program fees, and additional costs can deter the most motivated individual from pursuing their dreams.

The good news is there’s actually a large pool of funding support available for participants in volunteer abroad programs. Organizations from countries across the globe offer scholarships and grants to promote volunteerism, diversity initiatives, and community service. If traveling abroad is not feasible for you without financial assistance, we recommend researching the list of volunteer and public service awards below.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

There are so many volunteer opportunities out there for teens today. Mike has shared about his experience with Foster Closet and my best friend Abbi has shared about volunteering at Freedom Ride. Both of those organizations sound incredible! For over ten years now my family has volunteered once a month at a local nursing home.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

I think I’m about ten years old in this picture…

I hardly remember a time when we didn’t go to the nursing home. I was around 7 years old when we started. Mom took my brother and I on the first Monday of every month. We would serve ice cream (or pizza occasionally) to the residents, sit and visit with them for a while, and then clean everything up.

Mom says that she chose a nursing home so that we could learn early on to do things for people who could not do anything in return for us. Since both of us were so young we always took things along with us so we would have something to talk about with the residents. Kinda like show and tell.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

We serve the residents in the dining room.

I remember taking pictures of my new kitten, bringing along my build-a-bear so the ladies could help me change his outfit, and even bringing in a tiny puppy once so the residents could enjoy being around a pet for a little while. My brother would play piano and we would even sing hymns sometimes.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

I really enjoy talking to Mr. Carl about sports – he’s a sports fanatic!

Over the years I have learned so much visiting with the elderly in a nursing home:

1 – It’s important to treat everyone with kindness and respect, particularly the elderly.

2 – Working in a nursing home is a tough but rewarding job.

3 – The only way to get over the awkwardness of talking to someone you don’t know is to sit down and start talking.

4 – Being patient with someone is a choice.

5 – It’s an enormous loss to no longer be able to live in your home. Very hard.

6 – You can be cheerful and have a joyful life even in a nursing home. Or not…

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

A few people stand out to me from over the years. There was one lady who was so cheerful and energetic. She was so excited to see us every month. When we would sit down with us she would tell the same story over and over. She had five children and one of her sons had attended Harvard. She was so proud of all her kids. After a few moments of silence, she would introduce herself to us again and start telling us the story about her children again. We heard this story multiple times every single month. As a little girl I would just giggle to myself but as I got older I started to look forward to seeing her and letting her tell me the story. It made her so happy to tell that story and it made me happy to hear it. One month we got there and she had passed away. I still miss hearing it to this day.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Look forward to seeing Mr. Carl every month!

Mr. Carl is an avid sports fan and we usually talk about sports or the latest stories on the news. He is a so much fun and I really enjoy visiting with him and the other residents that come for ice cream.

A few years ago we had to put my great grandmother into the home. It was at this time that I met Ms. Harriet. She was always so friendly and sweet and I already knew her a little bit from serving ice cream every month. She was such a blessing to our family. She reached out to my great-grandmother and would always tell us how she was doing. Ms. Harriet was always smiling and would give us a big hug when we came in. A year ago she got sick and passed away. I still miss seeing her every month.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

My great-grandmother used to come with us and help serve the ice cream. Now she is a resident. Here she is with my Mimi…

It is sad as the friends you make pass away but it is so worth it. There are many people in the nursing home we visit who don’t have any friends or family come and visit them. I have had fascinating conversations with people who have had the most amazing lives and I am the better for it. It is also a meaningful way to gain the volunteer hours needed to apply for many college scholarships.

If you are looking for a place to volunteer I highly recommend checking with nursing homes in your area. It’s a fun way to make a difference in someone’s life. You may find that it makes a big difference for you at the same time.

Check out more like this!

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Katharine Mound

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

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When someone encourages you to start volunteering, what places pop into your mind? Serving food to at your local homeless shelters? Comforting animals in kennels and helping them get adopted? If helping out others’ grandmas and grandpas isn’t on your list, you need to change your thinking ASAP! Although nursing homes are intended to give older individuals all the care they need, they often fall short on regular social interaction. After all, while employees can care for and talk to the elderly residents, the imbalanced ratio of employees to residents limits the time nurses have to just chat.

Not sure what volunteering at a nursing home would involve? It’s actually quite simple: sitting down and talking with an older person, listening to their life stories and just being some kind and thoughtful company. Some seniors in these homes rarely receive visits from family and friends, and others don’t receive any visits at all. The fact is that the couple of hours you take out of each week to visit the nursing home could be the hours these people look forward to most.

Attending to the social needs of seniors can involve almost limitless activities from going for a stroll to painting someone’s nails. Just think of it like a date with your best friend – only she or he happens to be a few decades older than you! As long as you’re making the residents feel loved and heard, you’re performing an invaluable service to a group of individuals who aren’t often categorized as “people in need.”

How much of a difference can your few volunteer hours make? Not only do you keep nursing home residents from feeling lonely, but you also act as a brain trainer. Older brains need stimulation just as much as younger brains, and these conversations and time spent with seniors can help keep elderly individuals sharp and happy. However, volunteering at nursing homes isn’t a totally selfless act worthy of Mother Teresa. The companionship you provide can also benefit you as you learn from their life experiences and hone your own social skills. Ready to jump into action (or at least jump in your car to drive to the nursing home)? Visit the Hospice Foundation of America to find a nursing home near you.

We have a unique opportunity at the Area Agency on Aging District 7 (AAA7) for those who are interested in serving as a volunteer advocate for nursing home residents.

This opportunity is made available through our Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which is committed to protecting the rights of long-term care consumers. The Ombudsman Program provides this support for nursing home residents by helping them resolve problems and advocating for their rights, with the overall goal of enhancing the quality of life and care for all long-term care consumers in nursing homes or other home and community-based settings. Currently, this volunteer opportunity is taking place over the phone until volunteers return back to in-person visits.

Volunteer Ombudsman Associates are an invaluable part of the Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and provide an essential voice for consumers of long-term care services through regular visits to their assigned nursing home. Volunteer Ombudsman Associates provide residents with direct access to Ombudsman services; educate residents, families, friends and service providers about resident rights; advocate for person-centered care provided with dignity and respect; and help to resolve complaints as needed.

Because Volunteer Ombudsman Associates provide such an important support, they receive special training and on-going, professional support from our Agency. In addition, Volunteer Ombudsman Associates have the opportunity to plan their own schedules, are permitted to visit any day of the week, and are recognized during an annual event.

If you are a well-motivated individual and interested in the well-being and protection of residents receiving long-term care services, we welcome your interest in learning more about becoming a Volunteer Ombudsman Associate with the Area Agency on Aging District 7. Please call us at 1-800-582-7277 or e-mail to [email protected] to learn more about this unique opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others.

You can learn even more with our “Coffee Break” livestream that is featured twice a month on our AAA7 Facebook Page. Through this social media outreach, we have been discussing more about volunteer opportunities through the Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and sharing more details and information to educate the community. Find us on Facebook to learn more details.

Nina R. Keller is the Executive Director of the Area Agency on Aging District 7

Our family is very passionate about raising children with grateful hearts and service is a priority on our household.

Today, we are excited to have Alexandra Beane, of Wheels for Wishes sharing ways to get kids involved and helping our on National Senior Citizens Day. The reality is, that our families can (and should) be doing these things for others year-round!

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

5 Ways For Kids to Volunteer with Senior Citizens

Make A Senior Smile

Do Yardwork Or Chores For A Neighbor

  • Mow the lawn while your children pull weeds around the house.
  • В Help with watering the flowers.
  • Pick up sticks or large branches in the yard and haul them away.
  • Clean out the gutters and have your kids read a story or go on a walk with your neighbor.
  • Dust and vacuum the house.
  • Clean out the kitchen cupboards and drawers.
  • Clean out the closets and sort out items to donate to charity.
  • Clean out the garage and dispose of any unwanted items, including any unwanted vehicles .

Visit A Retirement Home

  • Bring in a collection of games to enjoy together. Ideas include Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Life, Apples to Apples, Clue, Yahtzee, Sorry, or Scattegories.В
  • Bring in movies that both kids and adults can enjoy. Consider movies such as Up, The Wizard of Oz, Finding Nemo, Mary Poppins, and Frozen.
  • Help residents put together a family tree, scrapbook, or photo album. Interview residents and include their questions and answers in the scrapbook.
  • В If your children are old enough to navigate the internet, spend the day teaching residents how to use computers and the internet.
  • If a resident knows how to knit or crochet, ask them to teach you.

Start A Book Club

  • Start a monthly book club at a retirement home. When you visit on National Senior Citizens Day, walk around the facility and ask residents if they would like to join. Many libraries have book club programs where they will provide books to members of book clubs.В Residents can each take turns reading the book at different times. Everyone involved will enjoy hearing each other’s different points of view on the stories.В
  • GreatВ books for children that even adults love to read are The Giving Tree, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Are You My Mother?, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Poky Little Puppy, Madeline, Little Bear, and Where the Sidewalk Ends.
  • Books that are great for older children and seniors include James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, the Little House on the Prairie series, the Harry Potter series, To Kill a Mockingbird, Watership Down, Because of Winn-Dixie, Tuck Everlasting, Little Women, The Giver, and the Chronicles of Narnia series.
  • Similarly, host a neighborhood book club with older neighbors and other families.
  • Start a book club with a grandparent or even a grandparent and his or her friends.

Interview An Older Relative

  • What is your first memory?
  • How did your parents meet?
  • What did you like most about your childhood home?
  • How did your family celebrate holidays when you were a child? What is your favorite holiday memory?
  • How did you meet your spouse? What did you like most about him or her
  • Ask them about their wedding day and honeymoon. Ask to see photos of the wedding or any special items that they have saved over the years.
  • Ask about their interests and hobbies.
  • Have them explain their experiences as a parent.
  • Ask them about their favorite school subjects, their favorite job, or the different companies they worked for.
  • Ask about their role models, favorite celebrities, and how they feel about any current events.
  • Ask if there are any other important memories that they would like to share.

Create Homemade Gift Baskets

  • Put together gift baskets or gift bags filled with cookies, candies, baking mixes, jams, crackers, and other fun snacks. Bring them to a retirement community and have your children distribute them amongst the residents.
  • Create a gift basket with fitness tools to encourage seniors to stay fit and strong. Light weights, stretch bands, a gentle exercise video, or even a yoga mat might be good ideas.
  • Create a gift basket with different types of stationary, such as notepads, pens, paper, greeting cards, tape, and folders.
  • Put together a game basket with puzzles, word finds, and board games.
  • Make a gift bag with craft supplies, yarn, sewing materials, and patterns that can be used for knitting or crocheting.
  • Put together a men’s toiletry gift bag with shaving cream, after shave, and shampoo.

However you choose to make a senior citizen feel special on National Senior Citizens Day, you will surely be making a difference. You will be so proud of your children for playing a part in helping to give back to the community and making an older adult smile.В В

Like this idea? Pin for later or share now with a friend!

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About Amanda Boyarshinov

K – 12 masters reading teacher, author and mom to 3. Amanda is a National Board Certified teacher with oodles of experience in early childhood education.


Awesome ideas! I love the idea of getting kids to spend more time with their elders, because seniors simply have so much wisdom to share – not to mention, it really brightens their day!

Volunteering in a nursing home can be a rewarding, life-changing experience for many people and for a variety of reasons, some of which I’ve posted below. Please add your thoughts in the Comments section.

The Savvy Resident’s Guide is a quick read and a great way to get an overview of how nursing homes work and what residents are thinking. Go into the nursing home prepared. The guidebook is available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.

1. A little goes a long way: if you can push a wheelchair safely from one location to another, or sew on a button, you can be a hero.

2. For those considering a new career, it’s a great way to see if you’re interested in working with older adults. Based on US demographics, we’ll be needing a lot of folks who enjoy working with “people of age.”

3. Feeling lonely? A nursing home is like a small town. It won’t be long before everyone is happy to see you and greets you by name.

4. It puts your problems into perspective.

5. You can benefit from the experiences of others. Learning about life from those who have lived for a while is an invaluable gift.

6. You’ll fall in love with a new oldster every week.

7. Death won’t seem so scary after a while, but rather a natural and expected passage.

8. You’ll hear living history every day, if you take the time to listen.

9. Your time commitment can vary from daily to once a year and everything in between, making it an incredibly flexible way to give back to the world.

10. As you’re referring to the “nice-looking 86-year old lady” and the “handsome new guy on the second floor,” you’ll realize you don’t look so bad either.