Many seniors have lived lives of helping their communities, their churches, their schools and a variety of organizations. They understand the value of making commitments of time and talents to improve the world around them and provide assistance to others in need.
Volunteerism doesn’t end when retirement begins. For many, in fact, it may well ramp up significantly. Seniors who volunteer provide valuable services to community agencies, school programs, churches, outreach programs, meals on wheels, senior programs, living facilities, libraries, and a multitude of other service opportunities to enhance the lives of others.
John F. Kennedy may have put it best more than 50 years ago when he said “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Many seniors took that to heart in their younger years and carry it with them today.
Senior Volunteerism Insights
- More than 1 in 3 adults over 55 volunteer, almost 20 million people in 2011.
- Older volunteers contribute more than 3 billion hours of service, worth an estimated $67 billion, to our communities and nation each year.
- According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, during 2009-2011 the rate of volunteering for states was 17-39% of senior adults compared to 23% of total population. In 2011, seniors made up 31.2% of the volunteer work force.
- A University of Michigan study showed that people with ‘many social contacts’ have a tendency to live longer than people who are isolated (The Senior Source)
- A 2000 national study on giving and volunteering showed that the volunteer workforce represented the equivalent of over 9 million full-time employees at a value of $239 billion. (The Senior Source)
- Nearly three-quarters (72.4%) of seniors are volunteering informally by doing favors for and helping out their neighbors. This is 10% higher than the national average. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Benefits for Seniors
It’s a real win-win when seniors exercise their volunteer muscle.
- Becoming physically active, even if the volunteer activity requires nothing more than leaving their homes.
- Mental stimulation from simply interacting with both information and people.
- Growing friendships and socialization from simply working for and with others.
- Extension of what is for many seniors a habit of lifelong learning.
- Sense of purpose and belonging that can come from being part of something bigger than oneself.
- Satisfaction that comes from making a difference in the lives of others.
- Reduction of social isolation and loneliness.
- Improved sense of well-being, including reducing depression, forgetting your own problems and relieving stress.
- Contribution to the management of some chronic diseases, such as arthritis.
- Sharing of lifetime skills and knowledge with others.
- Addition of years to their lives (due to the positive health aspects of volunteering) while adding life to those years.
Do you have some to add to our list? Please leave a comment and let us know.
Connecting Seniors with Volunteer Opportunities
You can help your senior loved one connect with opportunities to flex their volunteerism muscle. There are many ways to find opportunities – many people and organizations could use some help.
The first step is to decide what type of activity interests your senior. After all, most of us find it easier to stick with things that we enjoy or at least find interesting.
Is there a place they’ve already visit frequently that is in need of help, such as the local library, animal shelter, church or other location?
Need for Volunteers Great
Many places are in great need for volunteers, such as local schools and nursing homes. Activities such as meal on wheels desperately need volunteers. Even those who can’t or would prefer not to drive the meals may be able to help with other functions.
Sharing the seniors’ skills, whether it is paperwork, cooking, organizing, handyman services, reading, computing or any other life experience, can be vital to local agencies strapped for funds.
There are organizations that connect seniors with volunteering opportunities, such as the Corporation for National & Community Service (Senior Service Corps, RSVP, Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions), AARP Create the Good, Volunteermatch.org, Red Cross and AARP Experience Corps just to name a few.
Whatever the activity or organization with which your senior loved one decides to get involved, she/he – and even you – are likely to reap rewards and benefits that are immeasurable.
Health, friendship and purpose will bring life to seniors’ years.
There is, after all, truth behind the saying “doing well by doing good“!