The Value of Volunteering in Your Golden Years
Volunteering for your favorite causes or organizations can be a rewarding experience at any age. But for someone looking to donate their time after retirement, volunteering can offer a number of additional benefits that enhance physical, emotional, and mental health.
Whether you enjoy reading to or sharing your skills and expertise with children and young students, or you feel moved to volunteer in a hospital or local food pantry or soup kitchen, volunteering in retirement can help seniors remain active, socially engaged, and become part of a vibrant and diverse community. From making new friends to getting (or staying) physically active, volunteering can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
While the volunteer experience will be different for everyone, here are a few of the most common perks and benefits associated with volunteering your time and talents in your retirement and golden years.
Volunteering has great side effects
Studies have shown taking part in community activities and volunteering provides a boost to physical and mental health in seniors, and it is not difficult to see why. Seniors and recent retirees face challenges with major life shifts such as leaving the workforce or living far away from friends and loved ones.
Making friends and finding community tends to become more difficult as people age; the generation gap can be especially difficult for older adults to bridge. Volunteering provides a built-in community as well as numerous opportunities for personal enrichment.
Consider some of the positive side effects of getting involved:
- Use and development of problem-solving skills
- Personal enrichment (for both the volunteer and the organization and individuals involved)
- Learning new skills and cultivate new experiences
- Having fun
- Lowering the risks and effects of stress, social isolation, loneliness and depression, a growing health concern among seniors in particular
- Meeting new and interesting people
- Gaining an improved outlook and general sense of satisfaction
- Getting physically active
Making the Most of Longer Lifespans
Although the average adult lifespan has increased by several decades over the last century alone, Americans still face serious health risks associated with aging such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and joint problems such as osteoarthritis. But the good news is poor health is not a foregone conclusion in the golden years.
Data from organizations like AARP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that volunteering is not only good for a senior’s mind and joints, it can also be good for the heart.
Reap the Health and Lifestyle Benefits of Volunteering in Just a Year
According to research, seniors who reported lower levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation from volunteering noticed improvements within the first year of getting involved with their chosen activity or program. So whether you or a loved one have been struggling with physical or mental health issues for some time, or are looking for ways to lower your risk, getting involved can deliver fast and measurable results that can kick in as quickly as day one!
Best Volunteering Opportunities and Activities for Seniors and Retired Adults
The sky is really the limit when it comes to ways for seniors to get involved. As with any activity, some programs will be more appropriate than others. If you are interested in an activity that includes a strong physical component like walking or running to fundraise for a charitable organization, always consult a doctor first and take the proper precautions to avoid injuries.
Many people choose activities they have already been involved with for years and they are already comfortable with. Others choose activities that allow them to use their skills and experience to teach others or offer needed services. But you don’t have to limit yourself to what you already know or make you feel comfortable: volunteering is also a great opportunity to broaden your own horizons and try something new and to interact with people from different backgrounds and age groups.
Not sure where or how to get started? Here are a few activities and volunteer opportunities great for seniors:
- Volunteer at a local community garden.
- Like to knit or paint? Teach someone your favorite hobby.
- Help support service member and military families.
- Like to talk to people or need a little help coming out of your shell? Work the phones fundraising for charity or your favorite organization.
- Volunteer at an animal rescue (working with animals can also have added therapeutic benefits, without the need to get a service animal of your own).
And remember: you don’t have to commit to just one organization or cause. To find the perfect fit or if you have many interests, consider lending your time and talents to multiple organizations!