Why Seniors Should Volunteer
The Many Benefits of Volunteering
Many seniors are looking to productively use their time by volunteering for a cause they care about. But those who give their time and energy also receive, and often the benefits can be even greater for the volunteer. Volunteering brings a tremendous sense of well-being that can deliver health benefits from reducing stress to increasing self-confidence.
Senior volunteers are also the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering, because it provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing.
While it’s true the more you volunteer the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t take a huge amount of time or involve a long-term commitment. Giving back in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness as well.
Some of the many benefits of volunteering include:
Provides a sense of purpose
Regularly volunteering gets seniors out into the community, with people counting on their services and abilities. This reliance can give seniors purpose and a sense of responsibility while also fostering social engagement and even creating friendships. Meadow Ridge resident Ginny Green, who is an active volunteer and runs our community Country Store, puts it this way: “I wake up every day with a real purpose. I have real work to do.”
Volunteering may increase a person’s social networks, which can help lessen stress and reduce the risk of disease. By valuing the time spent in service to others, you will feel a sense of meaning and appreciation, which can have a stress-reducing effect.
Research has shown that volunteering leads to lower rates of depression, especially for those over 65. The increased social interaction helps build a support system based on common interests — both of which have been shown to decrease depression.
Expands your social circle
One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share common interests with you. Dedicating your time as a volunteer also helps you expand your network and practice social skills with others. As Green says, “The people you volunteer with become your best friends. You share the same goals and outlook.”
Keeps you active and may help you live longer
Volunteer activities get you moving and stimulate the mind. Older adults experience greater increases in life satisfaction and feel better as a result of volunteering. One study found volunteering among adults ages 60 and over provides benefits to physical and mental health. Another study found that, in general, volunteers report better physical health than do non-volunteers.
An analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Aging found individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health. In addition, several studies have shown that volunteers with chronic or serious illness experience a decline in pain intensity and depression when serving as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain.
Volunteering in the Redding area
Now that you know the benefits, you may be ready to start volunteering. Fortunately, it’s easy to move forward. Some common volunteering options include:
- Collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food
- Fundraising or selling items to make money
- Engaging in general labor
- Tutoring or teaching
- Mentoring youth
If you’re searching for ideas in the Redding area, a great place to start is VolunteerMatch. They say they are where good people and good causes get connected. On their site, you can search for volunteering opportunities by city or ZIP code. The United Way also will help you find volunteering options by area via their site Volunteer Connecticut.
Senior Corps is a U.S. government agency specifically for people ages 55+ who want to share their experiences with others in need. Foster Grandparents is a program for elders to serve as role models, mentors and friends to children with exceptional needs. Another program, RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program), allows participants to choose how and when they work in a wide variety of areas, which include job training, tutoring children, building homes, helping immunize children, relief services, and aid to community organizations.
However you choose to do it, volunteering has many benefits in store for you. Learn more about how Meadow Ridge supports healthy living and wellness in every dimension here.