From the holiday bell ringer in front of the grocery store to the group of people picking up litter in the park, it’s easy to see volunteers and the positive effect they have on our communities. According to AmeriCorps’ 2021 report, “Volunteering and Civic Life in America,” 60.7 million Americans volunteered in their communities, generating nearly 123 billion dollars in economic value. And that includes older adults. More than one in five older adults volunteers in their community in a formal or informal capacity. As Baby Boomers reach retirement age, they continue to make up a growing number of these volunteers.
And it’s no wonder why! Volunteering brings a host of benefits to those who choose to give their time and talents to help. Research shows that volunteering actually improves a person’s mental and physical health. Here are just a few of the benefits of volunteering:
Greater social connectedness: Not everyone has the benefit of a living spouse, children or nearby relatives who can come over and spend time with them. And we know that loneliness and isolation can be detrimental to the health of older adults. Volunteering gives them the opportunity to stay socially active in a way that fosters a sense of civic participation and belonging while providing a valuable service to their community. And when we volunteer, we are more likely to meet positive, like-minded people who could even become friends!
Continued sense of purpose: After wrapping up a rewarding career, some older adults may find retirement to be a bit boring! Many people view their job as part of their identity. Missing the socialization, intellectual challenges, and routines of their paid job, retired seniors can be at risk of falling into depression. Having a reason for living is critical to our emotional and physical well-being. Volunteering offers older adults an opportunity to use their talents in a way that is emotionally rewarding and good for their sense of self-esteem. Research shows that having a sense of purpose can help older adults live longer and lower their risk of death by 15%.
Increased physical activity: Staying active is an important part of healthy aging. Volunteering can help keep older adults from falling into a sedentary lifestyle. Just two hours a week of volunteering is all it takes to see improvements in your mental and physical health. A study by AmeriCorps showed that after two years of service in the Foster Grandparent program 84% of participants reported an improvement in their physical health.
No matter where your interests lie, there’s a volunteer opportunity that’s perfect for you. Pick something that you are passionate about to bring yourself more joy and satisfaction. AmeriCorps has a program called Senior Corps that matches adults aged 55 and older with volunteer opportunities. Be a foster grandparent, teach kids to sew, pack meals for the homeless, or help at a veteran’s hospital—the opportunities are endless. Whatever you choose, volunteering will bring benefits to you and your community. Get started today!
Windward Life Care’s Home Care Aides can provide older adults with transportation to and from volunteer opportunities in their community. Contact us to learn more.
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Helping people, changing lives
Health Impacts of Volunteering