Seniors and volunteering
There have been studies showing that volunteering is good for us. Some even suggest that volunteering can help us to live longer! Click here to read one study.
For seniors, the benefits of volunteering can contribute significantly to overall physical and mental well-being.
“HealthDay reported that volunteering can have a direct impact on overall longevity. According to the source, a study from the University of Michigan revealed that seniors who spent at least 40 hours a year volunteering were 40 percent more likely to be alive at the end of the research period than those who didn't volunteer. It doesn't even matter what cause they were devoting themselves to - just the act of volunteering was shown to have a positive effect on overall health and well-being.”
Volunteering for younger, active seniors can be a way to stay connected to the working world (assuming you've retired), and an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience gained from your career in a meaningful way. This could be when you finally have the time to serve on that Board or lend your expertise to a project. Or maybe there was a particular aspect of your career that you enjoyed that you can now focus on in a volunteer role.
For other older adults (not necessarily seniors) who are looking at retiring, you might also consider a career change and might want to explore work in the non-profit sector. Volunteering is a great way to make connections, test the waters and see if a career in that area will be a good fit.
For older seniors, isolation is often a real challenge. Perhaps you’ve survived your spouse, or your children have moved away, or you might simply live alone. Volunteering might be a way to stay connected to the world outside of your house.
After retirement, older adults may find themselves lacking the social network that their work environment used to give them. Not having someone to share stories of your weekend with, have a coffee break or share lunch can feel very lonely.
Sometimes, people living alone may go, literally, days without seeing another person.
Volunteering can alleviate some of this loneliness. Getting out and talking with others, visiting, teaching, laughing, experiencing things together is a benefit that isolated seniors may find especially appealing.
Consider joining a service club (or starting your own informal club) where volunteering together is the focus. The volunteer roles might change, but you volunteer with the same group of people each time.
Physical and Mental Health:
For an inactive senior, volunteering may be an opportunity, and just the motivation, to get up and get moving! Consider activities like volunteering in a community garden, assisting with childcare, or at special events. You make the commitment to volunteer and exercise at the same time - making it easier to stay committed to an active lifestyle.
Volunteering can also help seniors to stay sharp mentally – especially if they’re learning new things. Seniors can keep engaged in life and volunteering may help them to feel needed and important.
It’s important to know what your interests and passions are when looking to volunteer. It’s also important to know what your limitations might be and to be honest with yourself and the volunteer coordinator when accepting a volunteer position.
Think about how you will get to your volunteer role if transportation is a challenge.
Are you able to easily stand for long periods of time? If not, then don’t accept a position that requires you to do a lot of standing or ask if you would be able to bring a chair (for example, a course marshal at a race).
If traveling is a big part of your retirement plans, then make sure you are clear about your availability when considering volunteer roles. Maybe short-term summer roles work best if you’re a snowbird, or winter assignments if you are fully committed to your garden in warmer months.
Whatever your interests are, volunteering can be a great way to share your talents, your time, to have fun, stay healthy, and meet others while doing so!