Advice Assisted Living

I Need Advice on Volunteerism and Older Adults

Senior man and woman

Dear Benchmark,

Since my mom retired last year, she seems to be in a bit of a slump. I think she spends a lot of time watching television now. Something she never used to do.

My mother was a teacher in a local elementary school for almost fifty years! So much of her daily life revolved around “her kids.” I know she really misses interacting with children every day. I’ve been trying to come up with ideas to help her with this transition. One that occurred to me was volunteering.

I’ve heard that volunteer work benefits the volunteer as much as the organization, especially when it comes to seniors. I’m interested in learning more about that, as well as how I can help my mom find a volunteer opportunity she might really enjoy.

Do you have any suggestions?


The Health and Social Benefits of Volunteering During Retirement

Dear Adrienne:

As much as many of us look forward to retiring and having freedom to kick back and enjoy life, it isn’t unusual for older adults to take some time to make this adjustment. Getting involved in a meaningful volunteer project might be a great way for your mom to find a new passion to replace teaching.

And volunteering just might help her live a healthier life!

In fact, in a long-term study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, older adults who volunteered at least 200 hours a year had lower blood pressure after four years than those who didn’t spend time volunteering. Since high blood pressure contributes to health problems ranging from stroke to a heart attack, volunteering may help reduce a senior’s risk of developing these diseases.

What is interesting is volunteers didn’t have to engage in physical work to experience lower blood pressure. Researchers believe volunteering keeps older adults more active which is one of the keys to aging well.

So what can you do to help your mother get started?

Here are a few questions to ask your mother:

Time Commitment: Talk with your mom to see if she would like to find an on-going volunteer opportunity or if she would prefer to start out slowly with one-time projects. While it might seem like a bigger commitment, finding a recurring volunteer project might give your mother more of an opportunity to meet people and make new friends.
Personal Passions: You mentioned that your mom misses working with her elementary-aged students. There are probably a variety of youth organizations that could benefit from her experience. Does she have additional interests and skills she might want to share with others? Explore agencies looking for those, too.
Location: Also take in to consideration the location of the organizations your mom might want to volunteer for. Can she drive there on her own? Is there public transportation if not? Some agencies may be able to coordinate transportation for volunteers.

As far as finding a volunteer opportunity, here are a few organizations that can help your mother connect with one near her:

United Way: The national United Way maintains a database of all its local agencies. You can search for the one nearest to your mother and use their site to find volunteer positions in her area.
Volunteer Match: This is another organization that helps volunteers and agencies connect. You can search their site for local opportunities in a variety of different categories ranging from Animals to Arts & Culture.
Create the Good: AARP also has a comprehensive volunteer center you and your mom can use to explore interesting opportunities. From reading to children to hospice bereavement, there are many positions to consider.

I hope this helps your mother find volunteer projects she will enjoy as much as teaching!

Assisted Living, Independent Living
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