Loneliness is a huge issue for Baby Boomer women. Many women in their 60s are living alone and, while some of these women are enjoying their new found independence, others find themselves feeling like their lives lack purpose or direction without close social ties. In fact, in a recent Sixty and Me survey, 75% of the women in our community said that they are feeling alone.
Not having close friendships with like-minded people is one of the key triggers for loneliness and depression. There is good news though. There is a way to combat loneliness, while making a difference in the world. Through volunteering, it is possible to make new friends and find a higher purpose.
Joining a cause that you care about gives you a sense of purpose. It is also a great way to meet people who share your values. Not only do these volunteers care about the same social issues as you, but, they have chosen to do something about it. Like you, they want to make the world a better place – and that’s a great place to start a friendship.
Volunteering is also a fantastic opportunity to build cross-generational relationships. Women have so much to teach younger people. This is an untapped opportunity. When I wrote an article for Huffington Post called 60 Things that Older Women Want Younger Women to Know, it received 23,000 social likes, mostly from younger women. Far from being outdated, our wisdom can really make a difference to women who are just getting their start in life.
So why not put your skills and experience to use by volunteering in your community? To help you get started, here is a list of 6 organizations that would love to have your help. Each one of them is changing the world in their own way. How will you contribute?
Sugata Mitra won a TED Prize for setting up “self-organized” online schools in India. The School in the Cloud offers “grannies” the opportunity to use Skype to run self-organized classes. Through encouragement, conversation and support, School in the Cloud’s volunteers spark learning across the globe.
Samaritans is a unique organization, based in the UK and Ireland, which offers immediate phone support for people in distress. Anyone who is feeling sad, discouraged, hopeless, or even suicidal can call the Samaritans hotline 24 hours a day and get connected with a supportive “Good Samaritan.” Their volunteers help strangers to clarify their thoughts, get past their moment of crisis and find additional help, if needed.
If you need some help finding the right organization to volunteer for, consider Volunteer Match. This site helps people to connect with causes that match their interests and abilities. For example, you can find organizations focused on human rights, animal welfare, the arts and many other categories.
Intergen brings together students and older people. For older adults, the program offers the opportunity to make new friends and deal with loneliness. The students receive tutoring and support with their school work. It really is a win-win!
PRIME (the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise) is a program in the UK that helps to address the problem of unemployment among people over 60. Their goal is to help older adults to start their own business.
If you have a business or marketing background, why not volunteer as a PRIME mentor and share your skills with your fellow Baby Boomers?
CSV (Community Service Volunteers) is a UK charity that offers Grandmentors the opportunity to assist young people (aged 14-25) who are struggling to find education, employment or job training. This is an excellent opportunity to make a difference in the life of a young person who might otherwise fall into poverty.
One of the best ways to make friends after 60, while making a difference in the world, is to join a volunteer organization. Maybe you want to help older people who just need someone to talk to. Or, perhaps you like the idea or volunteering with students. Whether you want to build bridges or restore the foundations of peoples’ lives, there are so many options available. Why not start now? Why not change the world?
What volunteer work do you currently do and how has it changed your life? What advice would you give to the other women in our community who may be trying to choose a volunteer organization to work with for the first time? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.