There are reasons to volunteer at any age, but for older people, there are some very significant ones. Research shows that seniors who donate their time to a good cause enjoy greater life satisfaction. They also have better mental and physical health than their peers who don’t volunteer.
A study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service revealed that older adults who volunteer at least 100 hours a year are able to maintain an active and independent lifestyle. They also experience longer life expectancy and fewer incidences of depression.
Isolation Can Be a Health Risk for Seniors
Before there was evidence to support the theory, mental health professionals believed that isolation and loneliness among older adults was often the root cause of depression and a variety of other health problems. Turns out they were right all along. Research now shows social isolation can increase a senior’s risk for medical issues that include diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Excessive alcohol consumption is another worry.
If you or a senior loved one spends too much time alone, it isn’t just chronic disease you should be concerned about. Scientists at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London found social isolation to be a predictor of early mortality. The good news is volunteerism, which has benefits for your mind, body, and spirit, is an effective and enjoyable solution.
More Benefits of Volunteering During Retirement
Talk with anyone who volunteers, and you will no doubt hear them describe how meaningful the experience is. Many say “they get more than they give.” Aging experts believe it’s because volunteerism provides a sense of purpose that is sometimes difficult to find during retirement years. That translates to a more physically active and engaged lifestyle.
We know that volunteering also helps people in other ways:
Make new friends
Learn new skills
Socialize with others
Avoid feeling lonely
Increase the daily joy in their lives
If you would like to devote some of your retirement time to volunteer work or help an older loved one connect with an opportunity, here are some suggestions to get started.
Tips to Help Older Adults Find Volunteer Work
Think about purpose: Is there a cause you are passionate about but haven’t had time to explore before? Take time to reflect on what is important to you or what has influenced your life. For example, if you love children, you could research local organizations committed to child welfare or education. Or maybe you lost a loved one to cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. Then call or email corresponding organizations to see what volunteer opportunities are available.
Ask friends and family: It can be a little intimidating to reach out to agencies you don’t have any personal knowledge of or connection to. By asking people you trust for referrals, you might feel more confident calling. Ask around—including on social media—to see who you know that volunteers and if they have any suggestions for you.
Connect online: If you aren’t having any luck with word-of-mouth referrals or coming up with an agency on your own, it may be helpful to use an online database of volunteer opportunities. Two that are easy to navigate are Volunteer Match and Create the Good. Both have different search filters you can utilize to find a volunteer project that’s a good fit for your time and interests.
Finally, don’t let a perceived lack of skills hold you back from volunteering. Most organizations are happy to train senior volunteers who are interested and willing to learn.
Volunteer at a PSL Community Near You
As a nonprofit organization, PSL relies on volunteers to support our mission. Last year alone, volunteers logged over 137,000 hours of service to PSL communities! Visit Consider Becoming a Volunteer for more information and to download a volunteer application.