Retirement is a big milestone that many adults look forward to for years. Yet once they are retired, they find they have more time on their hands than they realized and aren’t quite sure how to occupy themselves. Volunteering can be a wonderful way to use that time more effectively, and the work being done benefits the volunteer, the organization they are assisting, and the individuals impacted by that organization.
Here are just a few ways older adults can benefit from volunteering in their community:
Socializing with others. Spending years in the workforce means being surrounded by other people. But once seniors retire, they may miss this daily social interaction and stimulation. Volunteering is a great alternative. Seniors can get back out in the community, engage with others, and make new friends which can help reduce depression, isolation, loneliness, and boredom.
Having a sense of purpose. Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back and gain a sense of purpose. Seniors know that what they are doing is making a difference in others’ lives, and that can be incredibly rewarding. It gives them something to look forward to each week and a way to build routine and schedule to their day where they otherwise might have unstructured free time. It can also be very fulfilling to volunteer with an organization that they are passionate about.
Staying active. Many volunteer positions have some type of physical activity built into them, whether that is walking, standing, bending, light lifting, or sorting. Sorting donations, stuffing envelopes, walking shelter animals, or showing visitors to where they need to go can help seniors stay active and integrate more movement into their day.
Keeping the mind sharp. Depending on the position, older adults may be learning new skills or having to use critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, or planning skills. They may be putting their knowledge and abilities to use in a different way than they previously had. It is good to stretch their mind and do something where they have to focus or complete a multi-step process.
Exploring new interests. Seniors may also volunteer doing something they have never done before. They may find an organization that needs help that they hadn’t previously heard of or be asked to take on a role they hadn’t considered. This can make their work more exciting because they’re learning something new and broadening their interests.
There are volunteer opportunities to fit every interest and ability level. Whether seniors want to volunteer for one-time or ongoing projects, they have options. If they want to volunteer once a week or multiple days a week, they can find something to fit their schedule. There are organizations for everything from helping children, animals, individuals with disabilities, or the elderly to saving the earth, promoting the arts, or serving at a food bank or soup kitchen.