Originally published on couriermail.com.au and reproduced here with permission.

Planning and putting on social events at her retirement village is more than a bit of fun for Wendy Brennan, it’s a way for her community to engage.

The 63-year-old resident of Argyle Gardens Bundaberg took on the volunteer role of village bar convenor and social organiser after she moved to the village almost two years ago.

Between the twice-weekly social bar operations and the regular special events it consumes up to three days a week in the busy times.

But Mrs Brennan said it is all worth it.

“Getting involved gives me the satisfaction of putting something out to the people in the community.

“Just watching their faces and getting feedback that they enjoy it, that’s great for me. And it keeps me occupied.”


While Mrs Brennan volunteers because she enjoys it, her work contributes to a social and community life, which is considered by the World Health Organization to be an important factor in active ageing.

And while she is helping many people in her community age well, Mrs Brennan also benefits from the hours she puts in.

Volunteering is known to bring meaning and purpose to your life, and can relieve stress.

The social interactions it provides also mitigate against the health risks of loneliness, which in turn can reduce the likelihood of depression, hospital admission and even heart attacks, according to Beyond Blue.

Mrs Brennan is not alone in volunteering her time for her community. The 2019 General Social Survey from the ABS found about 29 per cent of people aged 55-69 participated in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation, which contributes to the nearly 600 million hours Australians spend volunteering throughout the year.

Volunteering Queensland Policy and Advocacy Lead Zac Reimers said volunteering had been proven to protect against social isolation and loneliness, among a range of benefits.

“It’s not just the volunteer output of the work, it’s not just about the productivity, it’s about the connection and the community that you build along the way,” he said.

“The social element is an intrinsic part of volunteering.”

He said volunteering was among the most significant ways of demonstrating care about a cause and providing meaning in one’s life.

“It provides opportunities and new opportunities,” he said. “For seniors as well, a common window to get involved in volunteering is retirement. They might like to continue through volunteering something similar to what they did before, but applying those skills in a new context where they can see a real tangible difference to people’s lives. Or it can be a whole new dream and not being confined to what people did before.”

He said about one in three respondents to their 2021 survey said their motivation to volunteer included social engagement, but the reason cited by most people was to help others. About two out of three people said making a difference in other people’s lives was a motivator for them.

“When we talk about the benefits of volunteering - social, health - we have to remember that volunteers actually aren’t thinking of themselves when they get involved,” said Mr Reimers.


Mrs Brennan said the social organising was great because it gave her a focus.

“I’ve always worked my whole life, and retired four years ago.

“I’m an organiser. Getting involved gives me the satisfaction of putting something out to the people in the community,” she said.

She explained the village events had grown in popularity following COVID lockdowns, and now the Friday night happy hour attracted between 60 and 80 people. Special functions, such as Father’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Melbourne Cup and others, bring in up to 100 residents to have a lunch or dinner, with games, dress ups and other activities.

“We started to do different activities and then the word got out,” she said.

“We now get a good group of people. It’s increasing because they see it is something fun to do.

“In a retirement village, the community spirit is something that is really important. I believe we all need to be happy. By getting out of the home and doing something and getting involved, it’s good for their health and wellbeing.”

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