How You Can Benefit from Volunteering

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    Did you know that the number of seniors who are volunteering is rapidly increasing? Believe it or not, based on US Census, the number of volunteers 65 and older are predicted to increase my 50% over the next thirteen years. This is posted in a report by the Corporation for National & Community Service entitled. Furthermore, this statistic is predicted to rise even higher as the youngest baby boomers will not reach age 65 until the year 2029. I’m sure many of you may be skeptical as to the benefits in volunteering. “I’ve worked forty-plus years of my life already, what more do you expect!” some may exclaim. Well actually, a study assessing life satisfaction in older adults found that those who volunteer strongly correlated with this important factor, and showed significantly higher life satisfaction rates than those who continued to work for pay. Now this is neither a suggestion to “quit your day job” nor is it to force yourself back into the work force for free. This is rather a suggestion to take a couple hours out of your week to help others for the sake of their wellbeing (and even your own!)

    Volunteering is a way in which you serve a community or a particular population in need that may not have otherwise been able to find assistance. There are opportunities as short as one time services, or upwards beyond a one year commitment. In the middle range, you may sign up for a program in which you meet once a week on a particular day, or only attend special events when they occur. There is bound to be a commitment that is right for you with these endless possibilities. Next you will want to consider what kinds of communities, populations, or issues would you like to work towards? Maybe kids, seniors, pets, disabled, the environment, education, health access, immigrants, or the homeless? Write down a list of some of your interests, and perhaps some populations in which you have had little exposure. You will probably be surprised with all that you come up with!

    Now looking at your list, you may still be wondering how you would go about starting your community service. Actually, you are probably still wondering why you should go out of your way to even initiate such an endeavor. A news article on Naples News stated several benefits that you may find very appealing. First off, you are likely to engage in a larger social circle than if you didn’t have this connection to other volunteers. I am going to speak from experience here. When I started volunteering myself, I found that those I worked with shared many of the same values that I did. They cared about their education and thinking reflectively, the core values of our service at the Community Involvement Center on campus. Most importantly though, they really just felt like “real” people who actually cared to hear about how you are doing. Think about it. Community service would mainly attract those people who care to do something toward a larger purpose outside of themselves. I find it to be very special to be surrounded around this positive energy.

    Another health benefit that stems from this mindset would be the lower levels of stress anxiety that volunteers encounter. This probably is in part from the social support you would likely build, and the fact that you are getting out of the house to try new things! Activity keeps your body and your mind in its top acuity. Additionally, those who volunteered had a better sense of purpose and accomplishment compared to those who did not. This is pretty self explanatory. It is also noted that there are lower mortality rates in those over 70 who volunteer more than 100 hours annually. This is only two hours a week, and it has such a substantial effect!

    Now, as for where you can go about finding places to volunteer, there are many resources on the internet. You may try Servenet.org or volunteermatch.org. Both of these use precise search techniques to narrow down your options based upon your qualifications and interests. SeniorCorps is another option that assists those 55 and older in finding an ideal volunteer site. There have been over 500,000 seniors who have used SeniorCorps’ services successfully. Another option I want to bring mention to that is very different from others, are volunteer vacations. This is where you travel abroad to a location of your choice to do a combination of sightseeing, relaxing, and helping the community. You can find this at Hands up Holidays among some other “voluntourism” agencies. Of course this option is just as expensive as a vacation on its own, however you additionally receive the healing benefits of volunteering, for yourself.

    It’s easy to get caught in a rut of all the mundane tasks that take up our day, and the subpar ways we hope to entertain ourselves. I dare you to take a step out of your comfort zone to try something new! You will feel better in ways you didn’t realize you would. Many people underestimate the positive affect community service can bring.

Video: Volunteer Keeping Seniors Healthier, Happier

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