Celebrate Service: How Volunteerism Promotes Senior Health
April 15 is the start of National Volunteer Week. Sponsored every year by the Points of Light Foundation, it’s a week designated to recognize the contributions of volunteers to our society. Volunteers play an important role in many organizations, but research actually shows that older adults who volunteer receive just as many benefits as they give.
Older volunteers enjoy better mental and physical health, as well as greater overall life satisfaction than their peers who don’t spend time volunteering. The key is to connect with a volunteer opportunity you or your senior loved one feel passionate about.
The Health Benefits of Volunteering During Retirement
An estimated nine million adults aged 65 and older volunteer every year. A study conducted for the Corporation for National & Community Service found that seniors who engaged in at least 100 hours of volunteer work each year had lower rates of depression, greater independence, and longer life expectancy.
Researchers believe these health benefits are linked to the sense of purpose volunteering gives seniors. Having purpose keeps an older volunteer physically active and socially engaged at a time when they no longer have the structure of a work day. Additionally, many older adults turn to volunteerism after the death of a spouse or other loved one.
Engaging in volunteer work also gives seniors an avenue for meeting new people and expanding their social network. This helps prevent isolation, which studies show is tied to poor health in seniors.
Connecting with a Volunteer Opportunity
If you or a senior loved one is interested in connecting with a volunteer opportunity, these tips will help:
- Think about your interests: What activities and pastimes do you enjoy? Do you have special skills you can share? Are you passionate about animals or children? Think about your talents, skills, and interests, and find an organization where you can share them.
- Opportunities to grow and learn: Don’t let a lack of a particular set of skills keep you from volunteering. It’s actually a great way to learn and grow. For example, are you interested in organic gardening but haven’t been sure how to start? Volunteering at a local botanical garden might give you an opportunity to learn more.
- Search for opportunities: After you’ve done a little soul-searching and have some ideas about what types of volunteer opportunities you might enjoy, there are a variety of ways you can connect with one. One easy way is to call your United Way branch or another local organization that interests you. You can also visit VolunteerMatch.com and search the database using your zip code. The site maintains a database of virtual volunteer opportunities you can explore, too. These can be ideal for older adults who lack transportation or struggle with mobility problems.
At Sunrise, we know the important role that meaningful activity plays in keeping seniors healthy longer. One of our eight signature programs is Live With Generosity, in which each community participates in an ongoing community service project of their choice. We invite you to call the Sunrise community nearest you to learn more.