When it Comes to Volunteering Later in Life, Those Who Give Also Receive.
Research over the past twenty years shows that senior citizens who volunteer experience better mental and physical health and greater life satisfaction.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Volunteering
An estimated 9 million people aged 65 and older volunteered their time in 2007. As more Baby Boomers continue to retire, that number is expected to climb to 13 million by 2020. Studies indicate that these volunteers have lower mortality rates, greater functional abilities and lower rates of depression. Experts believe those numbers are tied to the sense of purpose being physically active and socially engaged gives volunteers.
• According to a study titled Assets and Healthy Dynamics Among the Oldest Old Study, adults 70 and older who volunteered at least 100 hours a year had less decline in self-reported health and functional levels, lower mortality rates, and lower rates of depression.
• Volunteers who live with a chronic illness report decreased pain intensity, lower rates of depression, and decreased disability when they help support a peer who is also living with a chronic illness.
Greater Life Satisfaction Rates Among Seniors Who Volunteer
It isn’t only physical and mental health that gets a boost from volunteering. Older adults also report higher rates of life satisfaction.
• Volunteering positively impacts social psychological factors. Experts believe that is because it gives older adults a sense of purpose that they sometimes lose after the loss of a spouse or career.
• Spending time with others on volunteer projects expands a person’s social network and keeps them from becoming isolated, helping to decrease stress and depression among seniors.
• While depression is a barrier to volunteering in mid-life, it can be a catalyst for getting involved in later years.
Threshold for Hours of Service and Health Benefits
How many hours of volunteer work does it take to reap the health benefits we’ve talked about? Experts say the threshold for older adults is about 100 hours per year or an average of two hours per week. Fewer hours and the benefits just don’t add up, but logging more volunteers hours doesn’t yield any greater health benefits either.
Tips to Help Seniors Find a Volunteer Opportunity
If you are a senior ready to donate your time and talent to help others, here are a few tips to connect you with a volunteer opportunity you will enjoy.
1. Think about the issues that are important to you or the hobbies you enjoy. If you enjoy reading and working with young children, for example, donating your time to help with a reading program at a (local community center) might make sense. But if you love animals, working with the local animal shelter might be a better fit.
2. Another idea is to find an opportunity that will give you the chance to learn a new skill. Many organizations will offer you on the “job” training in exchange for donating your time.