How Can We Help Seniors Learn More About Volunteerism?


Dear Benchmark,

I am the events coordinator for a regional library system. We focus a considerable amount of our time toward programming for retirees. One event we are in the early stages of planning is a Senior Volunteer Fair. Our goal is to share volunteer opportunities at our local library branches, as well as those available with area non-profit organizations.

We thought we might open the event with a talk on the benefits of volunteering during retirement years. Whether it is the social aspect of volunteerism or the health benefits, it seems like seniors don’t really understand how much they have to gain by volunteering.

Do you have any information we can share on how volunteerism improves the quality of life for seniors?


The Benefits of Volunteering During Retirement

Dear Megan:

What a great idea for an event! It sounds like an ideal way to help seniors personally connect with volunteer opportunities near their home. And I do have some information that can help you as you put together the opening talk for your program!

Estimates are that almost nine million adults aged 65 and older donate their time and talents to an organization they believe in. Those seniors who volunteer at least 100 hours a year --- less than ten hours a month --- enjoy better mental and physical health.

Here’s more that we know about volunteering and older adults:

Preventing Isolation: It’s been well-documented that isolation presents a serious health risk to our seniors. It puts them at higher risk for depression diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure to name just a few. Becoming involved with a volunteer project can help seniors avoid isolation and keeps them more actively engaged with life.
Sense of Purpose:  Aging experts believe volunteerism provides older adults with a sense of purpose. This can be especially important for seniors who are struggling to settle in to retirement or those who live far away from their adult children.  Having purpose translates to a physically active and socially connected lifestyle.
Make New Friends: It isn’t uncommon for older adults to see their circle of friends decrease during retirement. Some friends may relocate to live nearer to children (and grandchildren!) while others might move south to escape the cold winters of the northeast. Volunteering gives seniors a chance to socialize and rebuild their network of friends.
Learn New Skills: Researchers believe that continuing to learn new hobbies and skills may help prevent or delay the development of some forms of dementia. In fact, Harvard Medical School says mastering new skills could be considered physical fitness for your brain. In much the same way exercise helps keep your body fit, learning may help slow cognitive aging.
Joyful Living: And we can’t forget about the spiritual lift knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life brings. Whether you are helping tutor children who are struggling with reading or math or helping animal shelters find forever homes for furry friends, volunteering can help people of all ages live a more joyful life.

I hope this information helps. Best of luck planning your volunteer fair, Megan!

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