Retirement brings with it lots of time to do whatever, whenever. But for many seniors, that extra time can be comes a burden. One way to eliminate the problem of too much time is to volunteer. It’s the rare senior who doesn’t have something they can contribute either from a career or decades caring for a family and home. But the benefits go far beyond helping others because volunteering also provides many benefits to volunteers as well. If time in retirement is weighting heavy, take a look at how volunteering might just be the best way to fill the days.
Volunteer for your health
Although much of the evidence that volunteering is healthy for seniors is anecdotal, a 2019 independent study by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service showed it to in fact be true. According to a americorps.gov press release “Volunteering Helps Keep Seniors Healthy, New Study Suggests” the benefits are tangible.
- “After two years of service in Senior Corps, 84 percent of older adults reported improved or stable health.
- 32 percent of Senior Corps volunteers who reported good health at the beginning of the study reported improved health at the two-year follow-up.
- Of those who reported five or more symptoms of depression at the beginning of the study, 78 percent said they felt less depressed two years later.
- 88 percent of Senior Corps volunteers who first described a lack of companionship reported a decrease in feelings of isolation after two years.
- Among those who initially reported a lack of companionship, 71 percent reported an improvement in their companionship status.”
In addition, senior volunteers reported they “found a sense of accomplishment, opportunities for personal growth, and chances to form meaningful relationships.”
How to choose the right volunteer opportunity
There are so many ways to volunteer, seniors may not know where to begin. A good place to start is with the question, “Why do I want to volunteer?” Perhaps you want to help other seniors, animals, children, or veterans, or maybe you would love to assist in community gardens or with helping refugees get settled. The options are many but listing those reasons that apply to you can help narrow down choices.
Next, assess what special skills you have to offer. Retired teachers and professors are in great demand, as are those with law backgrounds, and those with construction experience. If you just want to spend time with others, patience and kindness are great attributes to have and if you’re in good health and physically fit, there are many ways to help others get in shape too. Those with writing, business or nonprofit backgrounds also have valuable skills to offer. Another angle is for those who have artistic talents they can share, whether its music, dance, or media arts like painting and sculpture.
The thing to remember is that no matter what your passion or preference is, there are many ways to share it for better health and the common good. For a look at how to choose the right volunteer opportunity, check out the seniorliving.org blog, “A Guide to Volunteering and Charity Involvement for Seniors.”
Finding the perfect volunteer opportunity
Volunteer opportunities for seniors are everywhere, from local school districts to hospitals and senior living communities to organized charities. For many seniors, asking friends and relatives if they know of any open volunteer jobs is one way to begin. Another is to look online for websites that help link volunteers with groups and organizations. Here are several that can help.
- AmeriCorps is a federal organization that operates throughout the United States and works at many levels to help improve lives. AmeriCorps Seniors helps match seniors with service opportunities in their communities.
- AARP’s Volunteer Search site offers opportunities that are primarily remote/from home and can be searched by choosing a variety of parameters.
- Volunteer Match is another great option for volunteers of all ages, locations and preferences and can be searched by location, type of position, as well as opportunities for seniors.
- Idealist is a site that helps match volunteers to open positions by location as well as preference, issue areas, and skills.
Potential volunteers can also search by organization including:
- Habitat for Humanity International which builds new housing in underserved communities here and around the world.
- United Way, which has an office in every state as well as many cities and serves in a variety of capacities to help improve life and communities.
- Feeding America needs volunteers to support local food banks and mobile pantries and delivers meals in communities throughout the U.S.
- Passionate about the natural world? The Nature Conservancy is often seeking for volunteers to help with new projects and sustain those already in progress.
- For those with health care experience, Americares is another great charity that serves internationally in support of a variety of health programs for underserved populations.
These are just a tiny fraction of the many organizations that can use volunteers. Some cities and towns also have volunteer websites and local charities may also be grateful for help.
Seniors at One Lincoln Park lead active, interesting and independent lives and are also active in the greater community. To find out more about what we have to offer, view our online brochure and contact us today!