Five Ways Volunteering Benefits Older Adults
Posted on April 17, 2015 by Chad Adcock
Most people would agree volunteering provides a wealth of benefits, often for the volunteers themselves. If you have ever worked in a soup kitchen or donated blood or spent a Saturday afternoon cleaning your local beach or park, you know exactly what I am talking about. Volunteering is good for you!
And it’s particularly beneficial for older adults. Scheduling opportunities for our residents to participate in civic engagement programs is one of the most rewarding parts of what I do as an Engage Life Director.
Author David Troxel said in his book, A Dignified Life: The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care, “…it is easy to forget to put the meaning into activities and remember that people like to do things that meet a variety of purposes and needs.”
Volunteering has many benefits for older adults who want to lead active, healthy lifestyles:
1. Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Studies show volunteering is good for both our bodies and our minds. Among other benefits, volunteering can reduce stress, improve your mood, help prevent loneliness and lower your chances of developing high blood pressure. For older adults with physical ailments, volunteering is something they can do to feel better.
2. Trying New Things
Volunteering allows older adults to stay active. Whether they are reading to school children, visiting with patients in the hospital or baking dog treats for a local shelter, volunteering gives older adults an array of opportunities to try new things.
3. Leaving a Legacy
As Troxel writes, “Most of us have a need to feel that we have made a difference in someone’s life or in the life of a community.” Older adults often think about how they have contributed to the world and what mark they will leave behind. Volunteering gives older adults a sense of purpose, while simultaneously improving the life of another person and making a positive difference in the world.
4. Connecting with Others
Forging connections with people is part of what makes us human. Volunteering provides more opportunities for older adults to connect with different types of people. I am always in search of intergenerational volunteer opportunities for our residents such as working in a community garden with a group of Eagle Scouts or writing cards to soldiers with a local youth group.
5. It’s Enjoyable
I recently asked a resident who volunteers both at the library and through her church why volunteering is important to her. Her response was, “It’s fun, and it gives me something to do.” And she’s right; being a small part of something much larger than yourself is just plain fun.
So, encourage the older adults in your life to continue to volunteer, regardless of their age. It’s good for them.