At Volunteering Matters we were saddened to learn this morning that one million people with care needs in the UK receive no formal or informal support (a rise of 10% over the past year). The Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust report revealed that cuts to local government budgets have led to a 25% fall (in the four years to 2014) in the number of over-65s receiving support from their council.

It has never been more important for our communities to pull together and ensure that our elderly neighbours are receiving the care and support they need. A famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi springs to mind here: ‘the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’.

At Volunteering Matters, we pride ourselves on offering social action volunteering opportunities that enable the volunteer to make a tangible difference to the lives of vulnerable people in our communities. We believe that the voluntary sector has a crucial role to play in enabling citizens to actively engage in their communities through volunteering.

Our Help at Hand befriending project in Scotland offers young people the opportunity to support an older, isolated person in their community. This type of project is a real asset to society: the young person has the opportunity to develop a friendship with an older person, and gain a deeper understanding of what life is like for others in society. The older person experiences the same gains, and has someone to talk to about any practical or emotional challenges they face in their lives. If you’d like to find out more about how this works in practice – read our volunteer befriender Katie’s story here.

Discussing problems and challenges early, in a supportive setting, is a form of ‘early intervention’ for many health conditions. This is a key theme in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, and we put this social interaction at the heart of our volunteering projects. Research suggests that social isolation can be as harmful to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We know how to run volunteer projects that successfully reduce social isolation, we’ve been doing it for decades, we simply need more funding to roll out them out across the UK!

It’s also important to note that we don’t view older people as mere passive recipients of care. We support a vast number of volunteers in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond to play an active role in their community. Find out more about our opportunities for older people here.

Our older volunteers benefit enormously from this experience. Volunteering offers them the opportunity to meet new people, develop new skills, make a meaningful contribution to society and gain from the health benefits of volunteering. The Telegraph recently interviewed three of our older volunteers, including 95 year-old Harry, treasurer of our Middlesbrough-based health and wellbeing programme Sporting Chance.

Whether you are young or old, we hope that learning more about our volunteer opportunities has inspired you to get involved and make a difference in your community. It is depressing to read these news stories of isolated, older people not receiving the care and support that they need in later life. But there is something that we can all do to address this issue. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain – go ahead and check out our volunteer opportunities in your area today!