Employing/engaging the ‘right person in the first place’ (i.e. a person with the appropriate qualifications and/or training, and good interpersonal skills) is a critical step in ensuring good quality leaders.
It is beneficial for a senior volunteer or member to have the designated responsibility of supervising, assisting and mentoring less experienced volunteer leaders.
It is important that volunteers have a good level of knowledge regarding organisational policies relating to participant privacy, confidentiality, disclosure, emergency procedures, etc.
Having trained and knowledgeable volunteers is also part of a U3A’s risk management.
If the program leader/tutor/coach doesn’t have time to have individual discussions with each older person when they commence, if possible, have another appropriate staff member/volunteer/coach undertake this task and provide feedback to the leader/tutor/coach. The discussion with the older person should be two-way – providing and gaining information.
Encouraging first-time attendees to introduce themselves to the program leader/tutor/coach at the start of the class and allowing some time before and after class for participants to ask questions or speak to the leader.
Any documentation relating to participant assessments should be maintained accurately and securely.
In a setting such as a community health service, the follow-up of non-attenders might be able to be undertaken by a staff member with the appropriate skills and experience to respond to an older person who is experiencing personal issues (rather than simply a reluctance to be physically active). This should only be done by someone who is sufficiently skilled to deal with broader issues that may be identified by an older person.
Making follow-up calls and/or sending messages to those who miss classes is a practical way of showing that they are valued, which is particularly important for socially isolated and disadvantaged participants.
If a class, program, activity or sport runs for 45 minutes, allow 30 minutes before and after (e.g. the room/venue booking is extended before and after) to provide an opportunity for socialising.
Following some programs, participants gather for coffee which provides them with the opportunity to socialise with each other.
As an alternative, organise a social gathering for the participants (e.g. a morning tea) at least once every six months. Such a gathering suggested by the leader/tutor/coach might better include older people who lack confidence in socialising before or after the physical activity.
Inclusive decision making
If changes are made based on the input of participants, continue to check in with them as to whether the changes are in line with what they anticipated.
Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.