WHEN Eileen Walters retired at the age of 77 from her accounting job at a solicitor's firm, she'd already worked more than ten years over retirement age.

But she was determined to carry on making a difference.

So she signed up as a volunteer at Blandford Hospital and, at the age of 79, has a whole new career.

“Many people say I have too much energy and need to slow down, but who has time for that?” she said.

“I didn’t want to be one of those people who choose to retire and ends up sitting at home drinking cups of tea all day. I had been working for 62 years, and I wasn’t prepared to stop just yet.”

In 2016 she became a volunteer on the hospital’s Tarrant Ward, which provides care for elderly patients, and has never looked back. She helps out every Tuesday and Wednesday, driving the tea and cake round on her first shift, and hosting activity sessions on the second.

“If I had my time again, I would work in dementia care as it is so rewarding," she said. "I love elderly people because they have a wealth of knowledge and a great sense of humour. You can pretty much guarantee you will hear an inspirational story from them every day.”

Eileen recently completed a training course to ensure patients with problems swallowing foods and liquids can be fed safely. She is the first Trust volunteer to gain this qualification.

Tarrant Ward Sister Kimberly Witt said: “Eileen has taken to the volunteering role like a duck to water, and you’ll often find her going that extra mile for our patients, whether it’s knitting for them or painting their nails.

“She has so much energy, and even dresses up as Miss Christmas and a witch at Halloween. She’s a ray of sunshine, and has an amazing rapport with patients and staff.

A recent YouGov survey found that more than a fifth of adults in the UK would consider giving up their time to help the NHS, and Dorset HealthCare, which provides mental health and community services across the county, has around 300 volunteers. They lend a hand with everything from gardening and serving refreshments to supporting patient rehabilitation, as well as raising vital funds for our community hospitals.

*If you'd like to help contact 01202 443 089 or email dhc.volunteers@nhs.net for more information.