Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Baltimore

Benefits of Volunteering

As each one of us ages and reaches the stage of being known in society as an “older adult,” you may wonder what that term mean. You may feel quite spry and certainly not older.  If you are fortunate enough to have been able to retire in your early sixties, what are your plans for the next 30 years?  Initially, you longed for the days of sleeping in each morning, but now the days may be getting longer. You may feel you have lost the sense of purpose you had when you were employed or raising the children. Or you may be in your sixties, know you must work to make ends meet; but, your employer just told you about an impending lay-off.  How can you not worry about how to find a job at this stage of your life?

I would like to suggest that there is a single answer to both of these dilemmas. Whether you realize you need to become involved in “something” to enhance your quality of life or to increase your marketability in today’s challenging economic times, consider volunteering.  First, take stock of your passions, hobbies, and interests.  Would you like to keep your job skills fresh, explore a new field, or finally embrace a long-held passion? Secondly, explore the array of volunteer opportunities within your community by either utilizing an online volunteer matching site or by contacting your county’s or city’s volunteer center or Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. Thirdly, select the option(s), which fits your passions and desires to positively impact your community or enhance your job skills. Fourthly, apply your current talents, learn new skills, make new friends, and have fun while volunteering.

The Corporation for National and Community Service’s Office of Research and Policy Development performed a review of research related to the effects of volunteerism upon the individual, particularly upon older adults. The research revealed what many of us already know: we feel good when we help someone else. In fact, it was determined that the volunteer may receive more positive benefits from the act of volunteering than the beneficiary of the volunteer’s actions.

Whether you are retired or seeking a job, volunteerism will immediately decrease your social isolation. Within your new role, you will meet new people from different backgrounds, enhance your socialization skills, and expand your professional, as well as personal, support networks. This newly developed network will support your ability to cope with life’s challenges in a more positive manner and decrease your potential risk for depression. In turn, your physical health is likely to be impacted by increased functional abilities, decreased heart disease and chronic pain, as well as a decreased mortality rate.  It has been determined that if you volunteer 100 or more hours per year, you are most likely to experience these positive improvements in your physical and emotional health.  Indeed, it is difficult to imagine an activity that can give a higher payback to you personally than volunteering.

After a period of time, stop and assess what you have accomplished within your volunteer role. It is highly likely you will experience a sense of pride and empowerment, because you now realize that your volunteer work has made a difference in your community.  You are part of the solution to one or more significant issues the world faces today. You may also feel a greater sense of self-confidence, self-esteem, and satisfaction with life. This comes from your recognition that the world at large also acknowledges your contribution. In turn, you will be able to augment your résumé and potential job interviews with your new skills and positive outlook. You are someone special who has and does make a contribution to the betterment of your community.

You may discover that the act of volunteering actually helps you to maintain your independence. This ability to have a true sense of purpose and accomplishment frequently results in higher levels of happiness.  As we age, let us continue to learn, develop new skills and invest ourselves in our community to the benefit of others, as well as ourselves.

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