How You Can Volunteer as an Older Adult
Are you finding yourself with more time on your hands? Have you retired and are looking for things to do with your days? There are many ways we can occupy ourselves as we get older. We can start new hobbies, we can travel, and we can spend time with friends and family.
One great and rewarding way to spend our time when we are seniors is to get involved and give our time to help our community and possibly beyond. Do you feel like giving back and helping others? Let’s take a look at how you can get started with volunteering and why you should.
There’s always someone or a cause out there that needs your help.
Do Seniors Volunteer?
Seniors have more time to spare and have valuable experiences and knowledge that can be put to good use. Every year, millions of seniors over 55 in the US volunteer with various organizations, local community services, or even abroad.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In 2015, the main organization – the organization for which the volunteer worked the most hours during the year – was most frequently religious (33.1 percent of all volunteers), followed by educational or youth service related (25.2 percent). Another 14.6 percent of volunteers performed activities mainly for social or community service organizations.”
Why You Should Volunteer
Volunteering has proven to be beneficial for seniors who tend to become less active socially and physically as they age. We all know that keeping our minds and bodies active keeps us healthier longer.
Taking up volunteering will have you getting out of the house more often than if you didn’t. The level of physical activity will depend on the cause you choose to participate in. Being active later in life keeps our muscles strong and our bones healthy.
Make sure that you are aware of the physical requirements that will be required of you to participate in the volunteer program. For instance, heavy lifting and long hours standing may not be suitable for you.
As we tend to stay at home more as we get older, that automatically means that we are not as social as we used to be. Remaining social is essential for our general well-being and our happiness. After all, we are social creatures!
Also, it can be difficult to make new friends when we are over 55. While volunteering, you will meet like-minded people that you can become friends with and even plan to socialize with outside the volunteering hours.
Mind and Soul
As we know, volunteering helps others that need it. Did you know that volunteering can be extremely rewarding for you as well? Yes, helping others makes us feel good. You gain a sense of purpose and volunteering can also boost your self-confidence. It just feels good to be needed and providing much-needed help in our communities.
Also, you may even learn new things. We’re never too old to learn. Expanding your mind and knowledge keeps your brain active and younger.
According to research done by the Corporation for National & Community Service, “Older Americans who volunteer frequently live longer and report less disability.”
Ways to Volunteer
Interested in taking up volunteer opportunities? With all the benefits it can bring to your life, why wouldn’t you!
There are countless ways that you can put your free hours to good use. Let’s take a look at some of the volunteer activities that seniors often participate in. Take a look at what you are passionate about, what you care most about, and choose a volunteer program (or several) that best suits your lifestyle and likes.
Feed the Hungry
Local food banks and community centers offer food items and even meals to those that need it. You can help with cooking, serving, and distributing food and meals. Check with community centers in your area for available opportunities.
Meals on Wheels is a well-known nation-wide network with over two million volunteers aiding in meal distribution to the elderly who are homebound and need assistance. If you have your own car and still drive, this can be a good opportunity for you.
Become a Mentor
One great thing about getting older is the knowledge we accumulate throughout the years. Why not use that knowledge and personal experience to help young people grow and thrive?
We may not possess the technological knowledge the younger generations have, but we have lived and we have experiences that can help a younger person make wise decisions about their future.
Look for Community Youth Centers in your neighborhood and ask if they have a mentor program that you can participate in. Let them know your field of expertise and they will match you with young people who can benefit from your mentoring.
Big Sister & Big Brothers is the largest mentoring program in the country that has proven again and again the positive impact that mentoring has on our youth.
Teaching is also another great way to pass on knowledge and help build the next generations. Check with local schools for volunteer teaching or help with homework opportunities.
Did you know that you could teach online? In these uncertain times, many schools have turned to online platforms to teach the kids. This may be a good option for you if you don’t want to go out much.
Help Military Families and Veterans
Veterans and their families sometimes go through difficult times and need a little extra help. Join the USO and find out how you can help support military service members and veterans in your area. It may be as simple as greeting military personnel at the airport to making coffee during meetings.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs also offers volunteer programs where you can help homeless veterans and even help with the upkeep of shrines and tributes.
Do you take activism seriously? Are you concerned with our government and want to participate? Political campaigns can’t function without a host of volunteers. Knocking on doors, distributing pamphlets, organizing rallies, and making calls to voters are all ways that you can help your favorite political campaign.
Love traveling? Not ready to hang up your traveling and adventure shoes? Numerous organizations offer volunteer opportunities abroad for senior citizens. Sometimes called a volunteer vacation, these are well-organized trips that cater to a specific need or cause somewhere in the world.
Get to see the world while helping out!
Share Your Knowledge
Did you own a business before retiring? Are you good with taxes and legal concerns? Retirement doesn’t mean storing away all the valuable knowledge you accumulated throughout your life. Check in your community if you can help people file their taxes or answer legal questions they may have.
Help Animals in Need
Love animals and miss having a pet? Animal shelters are always looking for volunteers to help with animal care. You can offer to walk the dogs daily, socialize with the cats, do some administrative work, raise funds, and any other help that they need. Check with the ASPCA or with smaller privately owned shelters in your community.
You can also offer to foster an animal in your home if you have space and energy for it. This way you are temporarily offering a home environment for an animal until they find their forever home.
Protect the Environment
Are you concerned about the environment? There are plenty of ways that you can help the environment by participating in local clean-ups and raising awareness through campaigns in your community.
More Resources to Volunteer as a Senior
Here are a few other organizations and nonprofits that offer volunteer opportunities.
The American Association of Retired People has an easy “volunteer Wizard” that will match you according to your interests and the issues that you care about. Visit the website and gain access to hundreds of volunteer opportunities nationwide.
“Each year, Senior Corps engages more than 200,000 older adults in volunteer service through its Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and RSVP programs, enriching the lives of the volunteers and benefiting their communities.”
Have you ever volunteered? Want to start volunteering? What cause or issue most appeals to you and why? Do you have any other ideas to add to our list? Share your volunteer stories with our community. Tell us what you liked most about volunteering. Let’s have a conversation!