Nurse seeing a book with elderly woman on sofa

Nursing home residents need mental stimulation to keep their minds healthy -- that's where volunteers come in.

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Honored war veterans. Survivors of the Great Depression. Grandmothers who know how to darn a sock and bake the perfect apple pie. These people have lived the history we learned about in school -- and these are the people you can meet while working as a nursing home volunteer.

Nursing homes don't exactly have a reputation for being fun places to visit. But this is an unfair stigma.

The title "nursing home" correctly implies that the people who live in these homes will be provided with a nurse's care, but nurses aren't the only caregivers. Besides the obvious medical care, nursing home residents also need mental stimulation to keep their minds healthy. This stimulation comes in the form of games and activities - and this is where the fun comes in.

Nursing homes rely on volunteers to interact with their residents. They need volunteers to provide company for residents and assist in hosting dances, card games and bingo nights. Activities run by volunteers are an integral part of bringing the feeling of home to the nursing home. In fact, federal law requires any hospice receiving financial support from Medicare or Medicaid to have at least 5 percent of the care provided to residents done through volunteer workers [source: HFA].

If you have an outgoing personality and enjoy interacting with people a generation or two older than yourself, you might try volunteering in a nursing home. In this article you'll learn about the basic requirements for a nursing home volunteer (including any training), the duties of nursing home volunteers and the benefits of working with the elderly.

You might not think that volunteering at a nursing home would be all fun and games -- but it actually can be. See the next page to find out about the many duties of a nursing home volunteer.