The senior population in the United States is growing. Today, there are more than 46 million older adults age 65 and older in the U.S. By 2050, that number is expected to grow to almost 90 million. At the same time, the percentage of seniors who are volunteering is declining. Around 24 percent of people 65 years of age and older volunteered in 2011, but now around 23 percent volunteer.
The trend comes at a time when a growing body of evidence demonstrates the benefits of volunteering. It’s a great way to be engaged with your community and remain active.
Ways for Seniors to Volunteer
If you are interested in volunteering, there are lots of opportunities. A good place to start is with organizations and topics that interest you. Perhaps you are concerned about foster children or you want to help animals. You can use Google to find organizations that work with these types of groups. Most of these organizations have websites with volunteer sections. You just fill out the form and a volunteer coordinator will contact you. You can also pick up the phone and call them directly.
Also, a database of volunteering opportunities has been compiled by HandsOn Greater Richmond. You can search by your particular interest or type of volunteering opportunity and the database will search for a match. You then reach out to the organization. The process is simple and straightforward and an easy way to get connected with a nonprofit.
What are the Benefits of Volunteering?
1. Volunteering Helps Bridge the Generation Gap
A lot of seniors do not have contact with younger generations. They only communicate with people their own age. A key benefit of volunteering is the ability to bridge the generational gap and have conversations with younger people. That contact can be through the type of volunteering activity, but also through the organization. Many times younger people are the volunteer coordinators at nonprofits and will direct the volunteers. Through the volunteer experience, you will be able to learn about the desires and needs of the younger generation.
2. Volunteering Aids in Mental Health
According to a recent study, 6 million Americans ages 65 and older suffer from some form of depression. Volunteering is the perfect way to stay engaged with people, and research has shown that volunteering helps a person’s mental health. A recent study of Senior Corps volunteers found that 65 percent of volunteers reported fewer signs of depression and anxiety after one year.
3. Volunteering Promotes Physical Activity
Seniors often lack physical activity, and that can lead to health problems. A volunteering opportunity can enhance physical activity. A volunteering position gets you out of the house and moving. You can get much needed physical activity to improve your physical fitness and physical activity.
4. Volunteering Makes you Feel Happy
Besides the benefit of helping others, volunteering can make you happy. For example, a recent study by Wharton College found that people who volunteer feel more useful, capable and confident. Through volunteering, you focus on what you can accomplish rather than your declining abilities as you age. In general, people who freely give their time are happier.
5. Volunteering can Help Prevent Dementia
One of the key ways to prevent dementia is by keeping the mind and body active. Volunteering keeps the mind stimulated and the body active. A recent study in the journal Neurology found that people who are physically active reduced their risk of dementia and stroke by 53%. You can find a volunteer activity that matches your current physical ability and keeps you active.