Last week, 8 Move Mates got together for their regular monthly meet-up. We love welcoming new volunteers and it was great to see Pip and Maryline, two brand new volunteers who are both keen to get paired with someone for a regular walk.

We started with a chat about the additional information we had provided to go with the Volunteer Training manual following feedback from our Move Mates, and we were excited about a new monthly daytime Social Walk starting in March for all volunteers.

Our Project Manager, Helen, led the meeting centred around Hearing loss, Deaf awareness and British Sign Language (BSL). As Helen has hearing loss herself, and knows BSL, she was the perfect person to share her knowledge with us.

Did you know 1 in 6 people in the UK have a hearing impairment or are deaf? That’s a whopping 11 million people. Also 70% of over-70-year-olds have some kind of hearing loss, so the training was particularly relevant to many of the people we walk with. 

There were more facts that few of us knew:

Hearing loss increases the risk of dementia by up to five times, and doubles the risk of depression. We learnt that people can reduce these risks by getting hearing aids as soon as they need them. 

As well as giving us clear communication tips from literature by Action on Hearing Loss (the national charity previously known as RNID - Royal National Institute for Deaf People), Helen gave us her top tips on communicating with people with hearing loss:

  • ASK - Everyone is different, so ask the person what is the best way to help them.
  • BE SEEN - Remove your sunglasses, take your hands and clothes away from your mouth (scarves, for example) and turn your face towards the person you are talking to.
  • REPEAT - If you are asked to repeat something, just say the same thing again clearly.
  • KNOW WHEN TO NOT TALK! - Some environments - a noisy road, a busy cafe - just don’t work for having a conversation. Accept the silence and try again when the environment has changed.

We went on to learn about British Sign Language and many of us were surprised that BSL comes in regional dialects and that some signs were not quite the same in the north and south of England. Of the 900,000 people who have severe or profound deafness, around 10% use BSL. 

We had fun fingerspelling the alphabet, learning some basic phrases and words, and having a chat with our next-door Move Mate in sign language. 

Following our training, we had a good discussion about our current experiences as Move Mates. We talked about what our beneficiaries wanted to get out of our walks, why we volunteer and the feel-good factors of volunteering.

Our meet-ups offer invaluable training advice; we have previously learnt about dementia awareness, sight loss, Homeshare, physiotherapy and Age Friendly York. It is also a time for us to grow as volunteers and ensure we are providing the best service we possibly can to enable our beneficiaries to get out and about, to improve their confidence and wellbeing holistically.  

...and at next month's meet-up we'll be doing a practical VI guiding session. There are limited spaces so book your place now.