For many adults, retirement brings a promise of stress-free days and a chance to replace busy commutes and meetings with a favorite hobby or interest. However, for some, retirement also brings with it a loss of routine and purpose, which can lead to loneliness and isolation.
Volunteering can help bridge that gap. It’s flexible enough to fit around other hobbies and holidays, while helping people stay active, involved and valued. With almost 25% of volunteers in America 65 years and older, senior volunteerism is an instrumental force in building positive and cohesive communities.
In this article, we’ll look at why senior volunteerism is important, and how organizations benefit from recruiting seniors.
Why is volunteering important for seniors?
As we mentioned above, senior volunteerism is such an important tool for building connections and participating in social activities after retirement. Volunteering gives retirees an easy way to meet people with similar interests and values, outside of family or work. In fact, a survey found 85% of retired volunteers say volunteering helped them develop new friendships that can then be developed outside of the volunteering organization.
Finding a purpose
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill
Today’s retirees often have 30 years of retirement to look forward to. And while many have flush pension accounts, studies have found they are three times more likely to get happiness from helping people in need than spending money on themselves. Finding a purpose that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning is a key driver of happiness too, with 70% of retirees saying being generous is a significant source of happiness. Retired volunteers who are active in charities also have a stronger sense of purpose and higher self-esteem.
Keeping fit and healthy
Keeping fit and healthy is an important way to slow down the ageing process. Moderate exercise such as walking or gardening helps keep bodies and minds sharp, while strengthening muscles and improving balance. Physical health is a major determining factor for positive health outcomes among older adults. And best of all, by getting exercise as a secondary activity, such as helping out at a community kitchen or dog walking, it won’t even feel like exercise.
After retirement, adults often find themselves with fewer opportunities to engage with people within the community. That’s when isolation can occur, with AARP estimating up to 17% of American adults feel isolated from society. Isolation can increase a person's risk of dementia, heart disease, stroke and depression. Volunteering is a great way to rejoin society, feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, and build a solid support base that will keep in regular contact. For retirees, volunteering can significantly boost psychological well-being.
Benefits of recruiting senior volunteers
Senior volunteers are highly sought after by many organizations thanks to the life skills and volunteer experience they can bring. Retired professional volunteers have the qualities and volunteer skills such as patience, compassion, listening and taking initiative that organizations desperately seek. Organizations should be aware of barriers, such as limited economic resources or mobility problems, and work to remove these or facilitate other opportunities to ensure as many people as possible can get involved.
Senior volunteers often make up the backbone of volunteer organizations due to their open schedules. Without work commitment or children at home, many senior volunteers find they have ample spare time and are willing to spend much of it volunteering with a cause they are passionate about. They are also often more settled in terms of location, and likely to commit long-term once they feel comfortable and valued. And with an ageing population, this represents a tremendous opportunity for non profits and volunteer organizations.
Volunteering is a great way to combine younger perspectives with senior life experiences. Trading life lessons and new ways of doing things is beneficial for everyone involved. Senior volunteers will learn new skills, trends, and ways of doing things, while organizations will benefit from their wisdom and experience. At the same time, shared experiences create bonding moments for senior volunteers and younger volunteers that might otherwise never happen. Make the most of this diversity by rostering on a mix of ages through your volunteer management software such as Rosterfy.
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Conclusion: Senior volunteerism
The key to volunteering is finding meaningful activities you’re passionate about. Don’t sign up for the local charity store if you hate shopping, but if you have always liked animals, maybe an animal shelter is a better match! That way, you’re more likely to stick with it and reap the greatest benefits. At the same time, organisations with passionate volunteers who are truly passionate about the cause will be able to pass that passion onto their program recipients, and deliver a greater impact. It’s a win-win!
A few more points to remember to ensure you receive all the benefits of volunteering:
- It’s ok to say no once in a while
- Remember to take some time out for yourself to recharge and relax
- Know your limits
- Pick a cause you are passionate about
- Have fun!
Best volunteer opportunities for seniors
- Animal welfare such as the RSPCA
- Food services like Meals on Wheels
- Charities and non profits like Red Cross, Lions Club, Salvation Army or The Smith Family
- Emergency services such as SES or Rural Fire Service
- Outdoor volunteering like Land care
- International programs such as Projects Abroad or Doctors without borders
How can senior citizens volunteer? Click on these links to find senior volunteering opportunities:
It’s never too late to get started, once you start looking, you’ll find there are plenty of opportunities out there! Check out these 12 different types of volunteering to get started!