Ah, retirement! No alarm clock, no hassles. Time to kick back, relax and take it easy – right?
Not so fast.
The truth is, after the initial thrill wears off, many retirees may wonder how they’ll fill the hours, days and weeks ahead. Lonely seniors might miss the sense of purpose and social connection they enjoyed during their working years. Depression in older adults is one unfortunate result of retirement that can impact those who live alone.
While it may not pay in dollars, senior volunteering offers a person invaluable opportunities to stay engaged with the world by lending their time, talents and attention.
Here are eight benefits for seniors that want to volunteer their time.
1. Bringing generations together
Connecting seniors with younger people through volunteering is a win-win situation. Older adults have decades of knowledge and life experience to share, while younger generations offer fresh new perspectives on life. Interacting with people of all ages fosters respect between generations.
2. Reducing feelings of isolation and depression
Seniors who volunteer often report feeling happier and more connected to the world around them. Whether it’s walking dogs for an animal shelter or mentoring high school students, older volunteers venture out into the local community and make a difference. Knowing others are counting on them to be responsible gives older people a sense of purpose, as well as the chance to socialize.
3. Keeping you connected
Volunteering can be a fun, meaningful way to reconnect with your spouse, grandchildren or other family members. Create new memories together and strengthen those relationships by sharing an experience. Volunteering is also an ideal way to meet new friends with common interests. Building friendships is easier when you’re working with like-minded people.
4. Having a sense of purpose
As people age, their children grow up and move out of the house. They retire from jobs. Certain physical pursuits may become more difficult. Despite these changes, older adults can regain a sense of purpose and meaning through giving back. Seniors who spend time volunteering may also discover new interests and life goals.
5. Increasing physical activity
Being physically active is key to staying healthy and independent in our later years. Volunteering opportunities provide a form of senior exercise, since the activities help keep a person moving – whether they’re clearing litter from a local park or packing up groceries to distribute at a food bank.
6. Teaching new skills
Retirement volunteer opportunities provide ideal ways to learn a new talent or discover a new hobby. Retirees can challenge themselves by contributing their time in an area they know nothing about. Many organizations are willing to train volunteers, providing an occasion to learn without risk or judgement.
7. Reigniting old passions
Prior to retirement, work, family and managing a home may have left little time to pursue personal interests. But help is always needed to usher theater patrons to their seats or check coats during a museum gala. Likewise, local zoos are always looking for extra hands to help out during special events. Community centers like the YMCA regularly recruit volunteers to coach their youth sport leagues. Take advantage of your extra time and follow your passions.
8. Improving mental health
Volunteering keeps the brain engaged, which contributes to cognitive health. Some studies indicate that participating in activities that are meaningful and productive may help lower the risk of dementia and other health problems in older adults.
Many reputable organizations offer ideal launchpads for seniors seeking volunteer opportunities. Here are some resources to help begin your exploration.
The AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP program matches adults of 55 years and older with organizations striving to make crucial changes in communities around the United States. Through the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program, senior volunteers can mentor and tutor children.
AARP’s Create the Good
Share your life experiences, talents and interests with others in your local community. Create the Good connects senior volunteers with opportunities to serve around their passions.
VolunteerMatch connects millions of volunteers with nonprofit organizations to offer service to communities in need. By sharing talents, skills and purpose, seniors are empowered to change lives and make a difference.
At Holiday by Atria, we encourage residents to stay active by participating in community events as well as volunteering time in the larger community. To learn more about life at Holiday, contact a community near you.