Have you ever considered volunteering with some of your free time?
According to a study presented May 2, 2009, at the American Geriatrics Society annual meeting in Chicago, retirees over 65 who volunteer are living to an older age compared to their peers who do not volunteer.
The study, conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, included 6,360 retirees who were enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study in 2002. The average age of the study subjects was 78.
Although that study did not examine the reasons for the health benefits of volunteering, other studies have. The Corporation for National and Community Service compiled findings of 30 such studies in a report, The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research. Among the findings:
- Volunteers have better social networks as they get out and interact with others
- Social engagement results in reduced stress
- Volunteering leads to a more active lifestyle both physically and mentally which reduces the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and depression
- An active lifestyle also helps boost the body's immune system, protecting against infection and illness
- Volunteering builds self-confidence, self-worth, and self-identity and proves to seniors and others that they still have much to offer
- More than 26 million senior citizens in the U.S. have already discovered the rewards of volunteering, from tutoring students to serving food in a soup kitchen, running a church rummage sale, recruiting donors for a blood drive, or helping with a fund-raising campaign.
Volunteering: A Way of Life
Once you get the volunteer bug you may feel the need even as you slow down. Volunteering can be such an enriching experience, which can also lead to lasting friendships with people that have similar interests. Seniors often continue it for years sometimes needing their own caregiver to transport them to the volunteer location. For seniors who have difficulty getting out volunteer organizations offer opportunities that can be done at home. These include knitting blankets for a fund-raising sale or to give to nursing home residents, cooking meals for church members who have just returned home from the hospital, or stuffing envelopes for a mailing.
The opportunities are practically endless. Schools, nonprofit organizations, churches, hospitals, nursing homes, animal shelters, and even businesses all welcome volunteer help and value seniors’ experience. With so many ways to give to others and receive health benefits in return, it is time for seniors to find out how an in-home caregiver can help them find the time to volunteer. Due to the pandemic, organizations that utilize volunteers, like other businesses, have had to adapt to stay safe. It’s always a good idea to contact them and make sure the safeguards they have in place will meet your own personal needs.
Anoka County has a volunteer site that highlights a variety of organizations that need help. In White Bear Lake, or really anywhere, you can use the website Volunteer Match to find active needs in your area. These are two useful sites to find work that will help others and meet your own needs.
It might be a little more difficult during COVID to find the ideal match for your volunteer efforts but they are definitely out there. For instance, one senior that had been a greeter at Red Cross blood drives now drives the blood from the Red Cross to hospitals where it’s needed. His greeter position was eliminated during COVID however, they still have the mission of providing critical blood to those that need it. His job just changed a little and it’s safer. See if you making a difference for others--makes a difference for you.