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Learning from an Older Generation: Volunteering

The third in a series considering lessons that can be learnt from an older generation

by Philippa Rae

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage mutual understanding and respect across the generations.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask the children what they think the word ‘community’ means.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Ask what they think the term ‘contributing to the community’ means.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Explain that people can contribute to the community in many ways, such as:

    - helping at fundraising events or doing a sponsored walk
    - volunteering to work in a charity shop
    - being a community driver and transporting elderly people or doing their shopping for them
    - running a youth club or toddler group
    - helping people around the home with tasks

  2. Point out that, as some people get older, they may need more help. They may need help getting to the shops, carrying heavy bags, making meals and so on.

    Ask the children to think about whether they know anyone in this situation.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    There are also many older people who contribute to the community in valuable ways. With their great life experiences and often a little more time on their hands, they can make a big difference to other people’s lives.

    Let’s look at a couple of examples of how older people contribute.

    Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the UK. Many people from all walks of life volunteer with Royal Voluntary Service by donating their time to running hospital shops, delivering meals on wheels or even walking someone’s dog!

    Show the images of meals on wheels, hospital shops and poppy sellers.

  3. Show the clip ‘Royal Voluntary Service: making a difference every step of the way’. This can be found at:

    Expand on all the volunteering opportunities that are available. Many older people make amazing contributions to society by fulfilling these volunteering roles.

  4. There are also many older people who enjoy fundraising for charity.

    Show the article ‘Meet Wally: Britain’s Oldest Poppy Seller’.

    Wally Randall was born in 1915 and, since the early 1950s, has dedicated time each year to selling poppies that commemorate Remembrance Day. Wally himself served in the Second World War.

    Sadly, Wally lost his wife to dementia a few years ago, but he is over 100 years old! He has a great spirit and is a great example to everyone who buys their poppies from him.

  5. John, Alma and Wally show us that it is important to value everyone in our communities, and that everybody has an important part to play.

    They remind us that older people have a lot to offer, and that many communities would not be as happy or function as well without them.

  6. You may wish to ask the children for examples of such people in the school community or local area.

Time for reflection

Think about the examples of John, Alma and Wally. They show how many older people are actively making life better for those around them.

Through them, let us try to remember that even doing simple things for others is important and can have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Dear God,
We thank you for older people who enrich our lives in so many ways.
Please help us to respect other people.
Please help us to help those who are in need.
Please help us always to consider the needs of other people, whatever age they are.
Please help us to care for those in our own communities.

Publication date: August 2017   (Vol.19 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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