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Golden Years: Volunteering later in life

They say it’s never too late to learn something new. That’s certainly true for Linda, who began volunteering for the Canal & River Trust back in 2016. At a time when she was struggling with her mental health and becoming increasingly housebound and isolated, the experience would prove to be life-changing.

It's all thanks to her daughter, Emma Fielding, our community roots officer for Burnley and Blackburn in Lancashire. A big part of Emma's job is working with people in the local area to combat loneliness and help improve their mental wellbeing. When she noticed her mum was having her own issues with mental health, she invited her to volunteer for the Trust.

At first, Linda was a little reticent. She felt unsure how she might contribute, but with a little encouragement, she soon found her feet. Six years on and she's still loving it. As daughter, Emma, predicted volunteering has given Linda a new lease of life. She's made new friends, picked up new skills and hobbies, and found a welcoming, supportive network of like-minded people.

Linda's story is not uncommon. We employ hundreds of volunteers, up and down the country, from a range of different age groups, abilities and backgrounds. Yes, we need fit, capable individuals to help us clear vegetation and maintain the network, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Our volunteers carry out a myriad of important tasks, from litter picking to lock-keeping to tea-making. In fact, a large proportion of our volunteers are aged 65 and over, utilising their many skills and life experiences to help us keep our precious canals and rivers open and accessible to all.

For Linda, volunteering has been a truly transformative experience. She's met new people, become more active, and found a renewed sense of hope and purpose. Linda, and hundreds like her, are an integral part of what we do at the Canal & River Trust. Without them, we simply couldn't do so much of our work. Helping us preserve our wonderful heritage, protect wildlife, and create beautiful green spaces on the canalside, can be an incredibly enriching, rewarding experience, and age shouldn't be a barrier. As Linda says, volunteering is for everyone, no matter your age or ability.

If you, or somebody you know, would like to volunteer for us, please sign up today.

Last Edited: 31 August 2022

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