Senior man in a wheelchair reading a book in a library with his male caregiver Senior man in a wheelchair reading a book in a library with his male caregiver

Volunteering May Improve a Senior’s Health

For most of us, retirement is our reward for a lifetime of hard work. It offers time to relax, travel, and enjoy the activities that bring fulfillment. However, if the retiree has no clear direction on how to spend their new free time, a lack of purpose may set in, which can affect both physical and mental health. For those looking for a way to spend their newfound time, volunteerism could be the answer.

Rediscovering Purpose and Improving Health by Volunteering

Johns Hopkins Medicine research has shown that leaving the working world behind can boost the risk for heart disease and other medical conditions by 40% in some retirees. Experts believe a lack of purpose and social connection in retirement could be a trigger for physical and mental health issues.

For many retirees, volunteering can bring a sense of purpose into their lives and even improve their health. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one in five older people are volunteers.

Based on a Corporation for National and Community Service study, older adults who volunteered at least 100 hours per year were two-thirds less likely to have poor health than non-volunteers. Furthermore, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine notes “strong associations between volunteering and favorable health and well-being outcomes,” and the National Institutes on Aging reports that volunteering may lower the risk of dementia.

Overall, there are many benefits to volunteering, like these rewards:

  • Contributes to good mental health
  • Creates opportunities to socialize and relieves loneliness
  • Gives a sense of purpose
  • Builds friendships with like-minded individuals
  • Allows reconnection with spouses and other family members
  • Promotes physical activity
  • Allows interaction with younger generations
  • Reintroduces old hobbies
  • Reduces boredom by learning new skills

Find the Right Volunteering Fit

December 5 was International Volunteer Day, celebrating the people and organizations who volunteer their time and energy to improve the lives of others. If you are looking for a way to use the time you have available, consider finding the right volunteer opportunity. Not only will it help others, but it will also help you!

To identify the right volunteer opportunity, first decide what interests you. For example, do you want to connect with the younger generation? Are you a lover of books? Do you thrive in the outdoors? Have you always admired art? Are you looking to give back to seniors in your area as a companion caregiver? To kick-start your decision, here are some suggestions:

  • Visit your local school district and ask about the classes or activities that need volunteers. Maybe it has opportunities to read to preschoolers or grade-schoolers. If you’re good with tools, how about helping in high school shop classes?
  • Reading to those living in assisted living facilities can help you share your love of books. How about hosting a knitting or crocheting club with residents? A weekly visit may help with the loneliness some residents feel.
  • If you’re an art lover, many communities have galleries featuring local artists. If you dabble in art, consider joining and displaying your works.
  • There are numerous civic organizations like the Elks that seek to raise funds for their communities through activities such as golf tournaments, bingo nights, and talent shows.
  • How about partnering with your neighborhood association’s cleanup crew?
  • Serving meals to those in need in your community can create a sense of purpose in retirement. Check out opportunities with your faith community or local missions like The Salvation Army.
  • Do you have carpentry skills? Consider volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
  • If you have loved cats and dogs throughout your life, local shelters always need help. Be careful, though, because you may fall in love again.

Organizations To Help You Find Volunteer Opportunities

In addition to the above suggestions, you can find more opportunities near you by visiting the following websites:

Volunteering: A Word of Caution

Although the above organizations are worthy of consideration, not all volunteer organizations are created equal. LinkedIn offers advice like researching the organization, seeking referrals and recommendations, verifying the legal status, and following your intuition before committing to an organization.

How Right at Home Can Help

Whether you have a skill to share with others or are looking to overcome loneliness and isolation, Right at Home offers many in-home care services that allow you to get out and feel more secure in giving your time and talent through volunteerism. From transportation services to medication reminders and help for those needing memory or mobility assistance, our insured/bonded caregivers are ready to help you get out and connect with others. Use our office locator to find the location nearest you for more information.

Marsha Johns, blog author

Marsha Johns is a veteran health care marketer and award-winning writer. She strives to make medical topics understandable and relatable for all readers.

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