Asume, Environment - Volunteering in Dementia


The organisational survey in particular explored the different settings in which volunteering activities took place. This resulted in a range of settings, where home and community settings were the most prevalent. The organisational survey shows that where volunteering activities take place is very versatile.

  • Where do volunteers in your organisation undertake their work

The idea of supporting the ‘community’ was a linked theme between all the settings where dementia activity took place. Previous research around volunteering has been predominantly focused on the individual benefits to the volunteer or the benefits to the individuals they volunteer with. However, our data indicates that volunteers often linked their activities to a much wider role in regards to community. They were not only volunteering for an individual, but it was part of their goal to also make a difference to their community. This was often through the lens of taking ‘responsibility’ for your own community. This ‘call to action’ was described as a way to tackle isolation in the community. As a way to create a ‘safe space’.

Volunteers saw themselves as facilitators between the community and those living with dementia and their carers – some of them even promoting the idea that they were a safety net from the stigma and ability to challenge that stigma. Informal volunteers were also explicitly mentioned as a safety net, Therefore, volunteers sometimes saw themselves as a conduit between the private and public networks of those living with dementia and their carers. Other settings, such as church, the local shops, supermarkets, parks and cafes interacted with the variety of housing settings such as care homes and individual households. They have the ability to ‘bridge’ different settings that a carer, or staff member at a care home for example, would not be able to do. This then makes the community setting, and the volunteers’ roles within it, of central importance.

Volunteers cross over the spheres between public and private settings. They often used arrows to show how their networking crosses over certain boundaries. In conjunction with writing and drawing their networks, they would often give a running commentary on how they bridge the divides through their different activities.

Really that you can make a difference to somebody’s life… It’s like if you volunteer to do something in the community, you’ll make a difference to that community, you know. Yeah. So it’s making a difference. I looked forward to the Thursdays. (Female volunteer, Cumbria)

The way that they’re perceived by their own elderly community I think is so isolating and so difficult for relatives and carers, that I think to have somewhere like this which is a safe place where people can say what they want and react in a way nobody will find it unusual, is such a nice safe place. I think the community is pretty hard work on people with mental health problems and dementia generally so it was something I wanted to do really. (Female volunteer, Cumbria)