Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

What should you know before volunteering at a care center?

April 12, 2022

What should you know before volunteering at a care center?

So you’re considering volunteering at a care center. That’s great! It’s our joy to welcome new faces to the ministry of serving seniors. 

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Most people feel awkward and uncomfortable volunteering at care centers (which is our preferred term for nursing homes or assisted living centers).

I get it. I had the same reaction in my early 20s during my first visit to a care center. 

At that time, as a youth pastor, my community service revolved around homeless ministry, juvenile detention and jail outreach. When I got a call from a friend asking me to play Christmas carols at a nursing home, I agreed without thinking twice. I had a great relationship with my grandma and figured the experience would be just like spending time with her. 

The first thing that struck me as we entered the care center was the unique smell, almost like a hospital. The second thing I noticed was a lot of lonely faces. 

One moment, we were in a room full of strangers. The next, we were praying with people and talking with them one-on-one.

I quickly realized that the experience would be unlike other service opportunities I’d had. The scene in front of me was depressing, if I were honest. 

However, that made the transformation that happened even more impactful. Once we started playing, everyone in the room lit up. More people began filing in, attracted by the music. They were dancing. We finished one song and got immediate requests for another. And another. And another.

It was the easiest ministry introduction I’ve had to do. One moment, we were in a room full of strangers. The next, we were praying with people and talking with them one-on-one. They were telling me how I reminded them of their grandson and explaining how they studied piano and the fine arts in their younger days. 

I’ll sadly admit that at the time I thought: “I’m so glad there are other people who have a heart for this. It’s just not me.” It was a formative experience, and God was beginning a work in me. Years later, I got my first job as a medical representative, and that’s where God started to mold my heart for senior ministry.

Visiting older people at care centers is not most people’s go-to ministry. But I wish more people would consider it. When the Bible says the harvest is plentiful, it can’t be more plentiful than walking into a facility where people have had a lifetime of experiences that has softened their hearts.

Seniors are completely honest. They just are who they are. All they’re looking for now is someone to talk to, someone to share music with. 

The harvest is plentiful because Florida has the highest concentration of older residents than anywhere else in the country, according to The Silver Tsunami report. By the year 2030, adults 65 years or older in the United States will outnumber children. 

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Would you consider volunteering at a care center?



Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.


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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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