If volunteering has ever been on your radar or in your thoughts, the time to act is now.
April is officially National Volunteer Month, and with spring in the air, there’s no better time to start donating your energy to the causes you care about.
Doing so can have significant benefits – both for your mental and physical well-being – and it can improve the lives of others and the community at large. It can also give you a great way to leave a lasting, permanent impact on those around you.
Are you considering volunteer work in honor of National Volunteer Month? Let’s look at some of the benefits you’ll enjoy by doing so – as well as some volunteering opportunities you might find rewarding.
Why Volunteer as You Age?
There are dozens of reasons to volunteer as you get older. For one, it allows you to pass on the wisdom and life lessons you’ve learned and instill that knowledge in future generations. This is particularly true if you volunteer with youth groups, students or even young adults.
Volunteering can also:
- Lengthen your life and reduce disability. Research has shown the volunteer work in adults 60 and older actually have fewer instances of disability and lower mortality rates. Volunteering impacts health and lifespan more than income, marital status, education level and more.
- Give you purpose. Once you’ve retired and the kids have long moved out of the house, it can be easy to feel like you’re drifting. Volunteering grounds you, giving you a feeling of fulfillment and a purpose and goal to keep working toward. It’s something many older adults crave as their loved ones grow up and start their own families.
- Prevent isolation and depression. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, interact with others and socialize within the community, and it’s especially great for seniors who often feel isolated or lonely. Studies show it can actually reduce chances of depression as well as shorten the duration of depressive spells when they do occur.
- Keep you active. Volunteer work keeps both your mind and your body active. You’re moving, thinking and constantly challenging yourself and your mindset. Volunteering with a companion or friend alongside you can boost these benefits even more.
Top Volunteering Ideas for Seniors
The best volunteer opportunities for aging adults are ones that tap into the senior’s passions and interest, while also challenging them mentally, physically or socially.
Here are a few common volunteering ideas, broken down by interest and topic.
- Animals – For older adults with a passion for animals, there are tons of opportunities for volunteer work. Local humane societies and animal shelters are always looking for assistance. They often need volunteers to bath animals, walk dogs, or even just help check in potential adopters and show them around the facility. They may even need volunteers to run off-site adoption events or post new animals to their website or Facebook page. You can also pet sit, volunteer to walk other seniors’ dogs or bring therapy dogs around to help those in poor health.
- Teaching – For retired teachers, educators or just well-traveled adults, teaching or tutoring can be great ways to volunteer your time. You can help prep local high schoolers for their SATs, teach English as a Second Language to recent immigrants or even host art classes if you’re the creative type. Pass what you know and love on to others.
- Children – Volunteering for organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts can be a great way to help mold the minds of tomorrow. Guide young kids down the right path of life, and help them gain confidence and self-esteem in the process. Babysitting or serving as a part-time nanny is a less structured, more flexible way to spend time with children as well.
- Healthcare – If you’re a former health professional or just the nurturing type, you could volunteer in a hospital or even serve as a companion to another local senior in need. Help them with day-to-day tasks, drive them to appointments and be there to help them through the challenges you’re both facing as you age.
- Gardening – If you’re a green thumb, consider working with a community garden project. You can help plan future crops, plant, water, prune and just generally care for the gardens. This can be a great way to get some sun, enjoy the great outdoors and reap the therapeutic benefits of gardening all in one fell swoop.
- Knitting or sewing – NICU units, hospital patients and nursing home residents often need things like socks, blankets, hats and Consider knitting these in your free time and donating them to local facilities in need. You could also donate your handmade items to local women’s and homeless shelters in the winter.
- Research – Love digging in and learning? Consider signing up for a website like Ancestry.com or heading to your local library to dig deeper into your genealogy. You can do the same for fellow seniors and residents, helping them tap into their own lineage and background.
There’s really no limit to what you can do as a volunteer. Just make sure the physical requirements are within your abilities, and that you set a reasonable, manageable schedule that won’t be too stressful or taxing. Be sure to line up safe rides to and from your volunteer work, too, if you’re unable to drive yourself.
Want more ideas and opportunities for volunteering? Come to Ganton’s. We help our residents give back to their community in any way we can. We also boast a whole calendar of regular activities and socialization opportunities. Stop by today to see for yourself.