3 Key Benefits of Volunteering for Seniors
People enjoy having a purpose. Seniors, though, often are left wondering: what am I supposed to be doing? What is my purpose?
The time period after retirement can be difficult to navigate, especially for those who are used to being active and social. Sometimes children and grandchildren are busy or far away, and other friends and family are not as free as the retired senior would prefer.
Volunteering as a senior can have many benefits, both physical and mental.
Bridging the Generation Gap
To begin, volunteering as a senior can help bridge the generation gap. Often, volunteers come from a wide range of demographics, so older volunteers have the opportunity to teach younger individuals valuable life lessons and skills. On the other hand, older volunteers are exposed to fresh and new ideas by the younger individuals they are working with.
Mental Health Boost
Volunteering is also a fantastic boost to mental health. The National Institute on Aging reported that individuals who partake in meaningful and/or productive activities may have a lower risk of dementia.
The organizations that seniors volunteer at can help boost these mental benefits as well. A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh surveyed 200 volunteers from various socioeconomic backgrounds who volunteered an average of 6 hours a week. They asked if the volunteers were given a choice of activities, given training, and/or given ongoing support. When they followed up a year later, they found that all volunteers reported significant improvements in mental health, productivity, and increased social activity. The volunteers who were given a choice of activities, training, and ongoing support were more likely to have these positive benefits!
A reason for this is that volunteering is a great way to prevent senior isolation and depression. Seniors often are “left behind” by family and friends who are still in the workforce; volunteering gives retirees a chance to work with other people and get much-needed interaction and social activity. They may even be able to make some friends in the process to spend time with away from volunteering.
Keeps Seniors Active
As for the physical aspect, volunteering truly encourages seniors to become active and helps them maintain fitness. Unfortunately, some retirees decide that staying in and becoming sedentary is how they want to spend their time. Getting out of the house and doing even very mildly active tasks, like standing up and serving food at a soup kitchen, is a small step in making sure a senior stays in shape without work.
Not Sure Where to Volunteer?
There are many places older people can volunteer. Senior Corps is a government agency that works to place people over the age of 55 in various volunteer opportunities. RSVP is their program that allows seniors to use their already honed skills or learn new talents in a variety of volunteer opportunities. Their Foster Grandparents program allows seniors to act as mentors and friends to children with special needs or disadvantages at locations such as schools, hospitals, child care centers, detention facilities, and drug treatment centers. Finally, they have a Senior Companions program that allows older adults help other older adults in day-to-day activities to help them remain independent in their homes.
Besides Senior Corps, there are a few other older adult-specific volunteer opportunities. The International Senior Lawyers Project “provides pro bono legal assistance to governments and civil society organizations in developing countries” and looks for experienced lawyers to volunteer their time to their cause. For those who want some adventure mixed in with their volunteer efforts, the Road Scholar Service Learning program brings in older volunteers who are “lifelong learners” to help in America and abroad with projects such as building villages and trails, teaching much-needed skills, and helping with conservation and preservation.
Of course, no senior must be tied down to working through an older adult-focused volunteer group. Humane Societies, food banks, soup kitchens, and any number of other local charities benefit immensely from having the wisdom and experience of older adults involved.
No matter what route one might choose to take, there is no doubt that volunteering is good for you and will leave you feeling happier and more connected with your community. The people you serve and the people you serve with all become a second family, one that many seniors could immensely benefit from having in many ways!
Compassionate Care for All Stages of Life in Frederick County, MD
At Thrive USA Home Care, we aim to keep our clients as healthy and active as possible, and our Personal Care Coaches support our clients’ efforts to volunteer and remain a part of their communities. As part of our Resource Center, Thrive USA provides extensive volunteer opportunity ideas to our clients – regardless of age. Contact us today to learn more about our in-home care options!