Reasons why you should volunteer and how to get started
Giving back to your community and volunteering your time to help others has multiple benefits, especially as you age. It keeps you physically active, engages your mind, lets you meet new people, and even teaches you new skills.
To get you started, here are a few reasons why you should volunteer and some popular opportunities to lend a helping hand.
Volunteers make a positive difference
Charities and public organizations rely on volunteers to support the many causes they represent. In 2016, there were approximately 1.54 million nonprofits registered with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, according to a 2019 memo from the National Center for Charitable Statistics. In 2017, about 25.1% of American adults volunteered – and collectively dedicated 8.8 billion hours of their time.
Whether you pack food at a local food bank, serve meals at a shelter, visit seniors in a nursing home, or donate your time to national organizations like the United Way, the Red Cross or Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, every action you take in the hours you give makes a positive difference in your community and beyond.
It engages your mind
Engaging your mind plays a vital role in healthy aging. In fact, the National Institute on Aging reports that staying socially active and productive by doing things like volunteering in your community can help your overall well-being and might even reduce your risk of dementia.
In addition, many volunteer efforts provide the opportunity to learn new skills. Every time you learn a task, you are working your brain. A study published in Psychological Science found that adults between the ages of 60 and 90 had improved memory after learning a new “complex skill” for three months.
It boosts your mood
Doing meaningful activities through volunteering strengthens your spirit and improves your mood. Helping others and being productive can generate happiness and a sense of pride and accomplishment. Socializing and interacting with people can also curb loneliness, isolation, and depression.
It provides daily structure and purpose
Sometimes the days seem to stretch on and on when you’re retired, living alone, or not spending a lot of time with others. Volunteering gives the days more structure, in the same way as working or going to school. Maybe you’ll spend two hours, three times a week in an animal rescue center. Or maybe you’ll deliver meals to housebound people every night.
Overall, keeping a schedule adds anticipation, continuity, and satisfaction to your days. Seeing the smiles, comfort, and other results your efforts generate also gives you purpose.
It increases physical activity
Staying physically active as you age is an essential part of maintaining good health. Going out to help out in the community keeps you moving, which is good for your muscles, bones, and heart, among others. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise and physical activity can help prevent high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and more. Serving meals at a soup kitchen, helping clean a park, or giving private lessons at a local school are great examples.
He creates new relationships
Volunteering connects people and provides an opportunity to form new relationships. You never have enough friends. The rapport you make with the people you meet in your community service efforts can forge meaningful friendships and valuable social relationships in a wonderful and reciprocal way.
The Internet is a great way to find volunteer options. Simply searching for “volunteer opportunities near me” should yield a lot of results.
You can also try to match your volunteer efforts with your interests. For example, if you love animals, contact local animal shelters, a nearby zoo, or veterinary clinic to see if they need volunteers. If you love to cook, volunteer to cook meals at a shelter or soup kitchen. If you love kids, consider volunteering for a story hour at preschools or the local library. Maybe you run errands, are a companion, or drive an elderly neighbor to doctor’s appointments.
Some national nonprofit organizations may have local chapters near you. Here are some popular charities that welcome volunteers:
Overall, the time you give, the rewards, and the benefits you receive as a volunteer is a win-win situation for you and for the organizations and people you serve.
Active Aging is presented by Koelsch Communities
Koelsch communities is a family business and has been in operation for three generations. Our continued success is built on our founding principles as we strive to serve our residents with respect, dignity and compassion, providing them with the best life experiences anywhere.