Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide

Volunteering
Helping Others...And Yourself!

One of the best aspects of being a senior is that you have more time to do the things you always wanted to do. If one of your ambitions includes helping others, you'll find there's a wealth of opportunities for you to become a volunteer.

Why volunteer your time and talents? The obvious reason is that you're sharing the knowledge you've gained and the job experience you've earned with those who appreciate your special skills. But volunteering isn't all about giving. Senior volunteers receive personal dividends in return for their countless hours of service. They learn new skills, make new friends, and develop new interests while realizing that they're making a difference in other people's lives. Some studies actually indicate that volunteering has a positive impact on the health of seniors.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Gallup Organization for Independent Sector, the number of Americans who are volunteering is at an all-time high. In 1998, 56 percent of American adults reported doing volunteer work during that year. An estimated 109 million people volunteered an equivalent of 9 million full-time employees. The half of the U.S. population who volunteers makes many educational, health, cultural, and human service programs work.

One area in which volunteers make a valuable contribution is in health care. Their skills and energies complement the services provided to patients and visitors. Whether they are escorting a patient to a physical therapy session, or offering a smile and a word of encouragement to a visiting family member, volunteers are called upon to assist staff in many ways.

Blanche Buscanics, director of South Hills Health System Senior Services, says that volunteering often offers flexible hours, and opportunities are available to help out in a variety of ways:

• telephone contacts/phone reassurance
• insurance counseling
• clerical/computer projects
• assistance at community events
• help with annual flu shot campaign
• assistance in marketing services to the community
• advance directives workshops/living will registry

"Seniors like to travel and do a variety of things," says Buscanics. "They don't want to be tied down to a regular schedule. They should ask about the opportunity to volunteer with a friend or group of friends if they like to work on a team and have a flexible volunteering schedule."

Volunteering is a great way to make an impact on the lives of other seniors. "Working either from your home or at an office, you can use your skills and energies to supplement the services provided to clients and families. Whether you volunteer as a phone friend, a friendly visitor, an insurance counselor, or as clerical support, you are an essential part of our efforts to improve the lives of seniors," says Buscanics.

How do you go about becoming a volunteer? Simply contact an employer and see what opportunities are available for volunteers. You may be asked to visit their offices to discuss your interests and talents as they relate to the employer's needs. Every effort will be made to coordinate your volunteering interests with the needed activity.

Here are some tips for "Volunteering Wisely" (Source: www.independentsector.org ):

Regardless of what you choose be sure to help others...and yourself...by investigating different organizations of which you'll enjoy being a part of.

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