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Is Roy, 96, the oldest volunteer in Britain?

Volunteers Week runs until Friday and all over the country, people are paying tribute to the generous individuals who give their time and skills without charge. In the midst of this, has Britain’s oldest volunteer been found in Nottingham?

Roy Herbert is 96 and regularly entertains residents at Churchfields care home with his organ playing, coming in every Wednesday to play golden oldies from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Originally from New Zealand, the former soldier and builder intends to keep making music for as long as he can.

Roy said, “I don’t know if I’m the oldest volunteer in Britain – perhaps I am! Musicians do tend to live on longer, don’t they? Music is good for you. It gives you a lot of pleasure, both playing and listening. When I play the organ in the home, I can see how all the residents and the care staff are enjoying the music and that gives me a big lift. So I may be going on for a year or two yet!”

Churchfields is part of MHA, the national charity providing accommodation, care and support to 16,000 older people. Its 4,000-strong volunteer body made it a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award last year. Two of its long-serving volunteers, Sandra Clack and Roy Pritchard, recently met Her Majesty at St James’s Palace on behalf of the charity.

Volunteer Co-ordinator at Churchfields, Sarah Smith, said, “Volunteering is such an important part of our society and the benefits are mutual. Roy plays music and entertains residents, but volunteers might also be befrienders, drivers, fundraisers…the list is endless. For people with dementia, it makes a huge difference when someone is able to give their valuable time to entertain or befriend or help them.”

Roy added, “I play songs that were popular in the old days and residents really seem to enjoy them. I started playing the organ when I retired. That was when I was 66 and I’m now 96, so I’ve had some time to practise! The organ is not a difficult instrument to learn to play. It’s not like a piano, where the notes die straight away.

“I enjoy playing for the residents. I like their company and I think they like mine too. We always have plenty to talk about!”

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