A growing number of adults, 50 years old and above, are seeing the benefits of community involvement. Not only are they making a contribution to their community, but volunteering benefits physical, mental, and social health. You can volunteer at an animal shelter, a community garden, a hospital, or a children’s camp. The possibilities are endless.
In a recent study conducted by a Fengyan Tang, a University of Pittsburgh professor, more than 200 volunteers aged 50 and above were surveyed. The conclusion of the study suggests that volunteer programs have a significant impact on the mental and socio-economic health of seniors.
What are the Benefits of Volunteering?
Confidence booster. Volunteering enhances your confidence and self-esteem. The idea of being able to help other people in your community provides a sense of fulfillment. Helping others thru community involvement solidifies that satisfaction. As you see the results in other people from your volunteering, you feel better about yourself and the world we live in.
Anti-depression pill. A good medicine for depression is volunteering. You are less isolated when you mingle with other people. You begin to understand that your situation is not as bad as you once thought it was.
Longevity. Certain studies have demonstrated that volunteering increases longevity because it helps lessen the symptoms associated with heart disease and chronic pain. In the same way that it also helps enhance your immune system and improves the quality of your sleep.
Better social connection. Getting involved in your community through volunteer projects obviously, gives you the chance to meet new people and consequently expand your social network. Additionally, you get to meet people from different cultures and from all walks of life, thus allowing you to broaden your perspective. Being able to connect with fellow volunteers allows you to develop fellowship with people who share the same interests and passions as you do.
Improved social skills. Some seniors get grumpier with age and it is understandable. Your life’s hard experiences over the years can probably get the best of you, but don’t let that happen. One way to do that is to continually improve on your social skills. Community involvement does just about that. Volunteering allows you to meet different people and understand and adapt to different personalities.
Career switch or advancement. If you’re considering a career shift, volunteering actually gives you the chance to try out one field and see if it is what you want. This gives you a momentary taste and feel for what it’s like in a certain field. You will eventually find the one you’re most interested in.
Skills improvement. In every organization, the skill sets needed are different. You will be able to perform tasks that will improve your personal growth. Administrative, communication, problem-solving, organization, marketing, project planning, and people skills are all necessary. You can improve the skills you have and develop new ones.
A fun-filled fulfillment. Not only is volunteering fun but being able to help other people through your efforts gives you an inner sense of fulfillment. It gives your life a sense of fulfillment. Life is not all about work and money. It’s also about touching the lives of others in whatever way you can.
Emotional intelligence. Studies have shown that older adults who engage in volunteering projects have considerably increased their emotional intelligence, stating that their happiness-o-meter has risen high.
WHY do you want to volunteer?
There are so many volunteer projects spanning different fields, areas, and programs. Before you jump on board to become a volunteer, try to identify your goals and interests. This will help you get the most out of your experience and make it life-changing and enjoyable.
So ask yourself,
- Why do you want to volunteer?
- What kind of impact do you want to have in the community you will be serving?
- What do you really love or enjoy doing?
- What kind of causes are you passionate about?
- What kind of people do you want to meet?
- Do you like to work with children, adults, or animals?
- What areas in your life do you wish to improve on?
- What talents or skills are you best at that you want to share with the community?
- How do you want other people to remember you by?
- What kind of commitment are you willing to give in terms of time and service?
Answering these questions can help you narrow down your choices and help ensure that your personality, interests, and values will match that of the organization’s needs.
WHERE do you volunteer?
The key is to not limit yourself to only one organization or one specific field. Explore your options by gathering sufficient information from these organizations. Learn more from their site about their causes and their projects.
Volunteer opportunities come in so many shapes and sizes. Different institutions or organizations that welcome volunteers may include:
- Community Theaters and Museums
- Youth Organizations and Sports Teams
- Wildlife Centers, Local Animal Shelters and Rescue Organizations
- Senior Centers
- Service Organizations (like the Rotary or Lions Club)
- Nationals Parks and Conversation Organizations
- Local Community Centers
HOW do you create the best volunteering experience?
Being a volunteer means sharing your time and effort for the common good. And so you want to get the most out of this experience by taking these tips to heart:
- Clarify by asking questions. If there are things you are not sure of, such as what skills are necessary or if training required or how things should be done, don’t be afraid to ask. You are not expected to know everything. Learn as much as you can by asking the right questions.
- Commit only according to what you can deliver. Your commitment is necessary for this to work. But only commit to what you know you can give. How much time are you able to give? What skills are you capable of? They don’t expect you to be Superman either so don’t spread yourself too thinly. Be honest and inform the organization the extent of what you can do and how much time are you willing to spend.
- Be proactive. One good trait of being an effective and happy volunteer is the ability to speak your mind. Don’t hesitate to make some suggestions if you think your suggestions can help the organization to improve.
- It’s okay to say no. If, after you volunteer, you realize that this is not a fit for you, then don’t wait. Decline to continue volunteering rather than continuing with an organization that you don’t enjoy.
- Have fun. Volunteering should not feel like it’s tedious work. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, regardless of the task, then it shouldn’t feel like work. Find the tasks you love doing and just have fun!
Volunteer Organizations and Programs Resources
Volunteers 50 years of age and above may get involved in projects relating to humanitarian, conservation, or wildlife. It includes locations such as Israel, Australia, Africa, South America, and Central America.
Volunteer projects include planting and maintenance of community gardens, teaching English, caring for disabled kids, and building classrooms and clinics. You may also choose to volunteer on your own or with your family and friends.
A national non-profit organization Volunteers of America carries out human service programs which include health care and housing to under-served communities. The communities are located throughout the U.S. as well as in Puerto Rico.
Cause areas include children & youth, education & literacy, community, health & medicine, seniors, homeless. and veterans. This site allows you to filter volunteering opportunities according to cause and your preferred location.
They offer guidance and training to interested senior citizens who volunteer. Eventually, the volunteers become mentors, coaches, and companions to other individuals who are in need of their help. Senior Corps Programs include Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions. Their Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is involved in various projects such as neighborhood watch, home renovation and mentoring disabled youth.
The national council for aging care has loads of resources for smart and active seniors. This site is a wealth of information for all.
Volunteer activities for seniors include nutrition services, health & wellness, caregiver support, and elder rights. When you volunteer, you give back to your community. But most importantly, it’s also something you do for yourself personally. Not only will you be reaping the benefits of community involvement, but being able to touch the lives of other people is simply unparalleled.
Have you ever tried volunteering for a cause? Share your experiences with us and tell us what great things volunteering has done for you.
Read more on Guide for Seniors about how lifestyle affects seniors.