Post-retirement can be a ironically stressful time for some older adults and that's why there are so many chances of volunteering for seniors. Many older adults who have been working nearly their entire life may not know exactly what to do with all this free time on their hands. You can only fix up the house and go on a walk so many times. Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can stay active and engaged even after retirement.
For example, getting involved with a local senior center is a great way to stay socially stimulated with people your age. Senior centers aren’t just glorified bingo areas anymore. Nowadays, many senior centers have events and activities planned for seniors of all interest types.
One of the best things that seniors can do during their retirement to keep them engaged is volunteering. Volunteering is a win-win situation, it helps people who need it, meanwhile, volunteers feel socially stimulated and will likely feel a sense of fulfillment. There are a number of seniors that are already volunteering. In fact, according to 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 23 percent of adults 65 and older were volunteering. While this number is high, there is always more work that can be done.
The Benefits of Volunteering
There are a number of physical and mental benefits associated with volunteering. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, research shows that volunteering leads to better health and that older volunteers are the most likely of any group to receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities.
There is a growing body of research that indicates that volunteering provides individual health in addition to the social benefits that volunteering provides. There is some evidence that volunteering has a strong established relationship with health. In fact, those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression than those who do not volunteer. It may be hard to wrap your head around why people who volunteer are more likely to see these health benefits.
Why would there be a connection between volunteer activities and longer, healthier lives?
The answer is complex. Evidence suggests that volunteering can have a positive effect on personal social psychological factors, such as one’s sense of purpose. In turn, these positive psychological factors correlate with lower risks for poor physical health. Similarly, volunteering gives people the opportunity to expand and enhance their social networks. People with strong social lives are more likely to have less stress and reduced risk of diseases.
Volunteering and Age
There is some evidence that shows that age does not matter when it comes to the benefits that volunteering provides. However, being that older individuals are more susceptible to illness and depression, there is some belief that older adults may experience greater benefits from volunteering compared to younger people
There have been studies in the past to identify the amount or type of volunteering in which an individual needs to engage in order to feel the health benefits associated with volunteer activities. However, these studies found that rather than a linear relationship, there was something they noticed called the “volunteering threshold”. It was found that to receive positive health outcomes from volunteering, an individual needs to commit at least one or two hours a week to volunteer activities.
Many people may want to volunteer or help other people or causes that are close to their heart but don’t know exactly where to start. Luckily, there are a number of resources available for those who are looking to get more involved with their communities. There are a wide array of options for those looking for volunteering, such as:
- Serving, preparing, or giving out food
- Labor, such as building homes or cleaning up a street
- Helping Children
- Distributing clothing and more
There are a number of ways to find a perfect volunteering match for you. For example, AARP has an online tool that you can use. You answer a few questions for the program to understand your preferences. They will ask what interests and issues you care about, your skills, who you want to help, and when you can help. After submitting this information, the program will pull a number of opportunities available.
If you’re looking for specific programs to get involved with, here are a few options:
Habitat For Humanity — Habitat For Humanity is a global nonprofit organization that envisions a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Habitat home builders help to build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Of America — Big Brothers Big Sisters looks to provide young children, teenagers, and young adults who are facing adversity with strong and enduring one-on-one relationships that will work to change their lives for the better.
Helping Paws — If animals are more your style, Helping Paws is one animal shelter that has a specific program in place for seniors who want to get involved with helping animals. Their Senior to Senior program helps to match senior cats and dogs who are seven years of age or older, with senior citizens.
The benefits are obvious. Not only does volunteering help someone in need, but it can also be beneficial to the person volunteering. There are strong links between volunteering and health. Evidence shows that volunteering leads to a number of physical and mental health benefits including lower risk of disease, lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, and more. Luckily, for those who don’t know where to start, there are many resources available online that can help match seniors, and others, with an organization that could use their help.
Volunteering for seniors offers access to social events and activities that can help keep them engaged during this later chapter of their lives. Another way that seniors can say healthy and socially stimulated is through the help of an assisted living facility. Facilities like Landmark Senior Living can provide your loved one with the quality care that they deserve at this stage in their life. If you would like to learn more about what Landmark can offer, please visit our website and schedule a complimentary walkthrough of one of our facilities.