Guest Post Author: James Buesing | Momentum Life
Why volunteering is a great activity for aging adults
A common worry of retirees is finding ways to bring more meaning to their life. Career satisfaction and achievement are a big part of many people’s lives. While leaving the workforce is often discussed in positive terms, many older adults may feel at a loss after they’ve retired.
This search for meaning may also be a concern for the family members and caregivers tasked with helping older adults. A study by the Institute of Economic Affairs found that the likelihood that a person will suffer from clinical depression increases by 40% after they retire. With depression affecting both a person’s mental and physical health, finding practical ways to help retirees feel engaged and active is important.
Volunteering is an excellent way for many older adults to remain active and receive a sense of accomplishment. The benefits of giving back to one’s community may even extend to their personal health and sense of wellbeing.
Who is volunteering, and what’s holding some back
Volunteerism is embraced all over the world. For instance, New Zealand is an altruistic nation, with over 30% of people over the age of 10 volunteering in their communities. Older adults make up a significant portion of the country’s volunteers, with just over 45% of adults aged 65 to 85+donating time to an organization or group.
The popularity of volunteering with older adults makes sense. People often cite not having enough time as a reason for being unable or unwilling to volunteer. For retirees, this might be less of an issue, as they may have fewer social obligations competing in their schedule. However, there may be other factors keeping older adults from volunteering.
Health can play a factor in a person’s desire or ability to volunteer their time. For older adults, physical or mental impairment may exclude them from certain types of activities. Some might also be anxious about keeping up with the “job” due to health issues. But despite these concerns, there are many opportunities for seniors to volunteer, as well as some great reasons to do so.
Why volunteering can be great for older adults
There are some benefits to volunteering at any age, but some may have added importance for retirees. As previously mentioned, becoming a volunteer can help give one’s post-retirement life more meaning. This may be particularly true for someone who genuinely liked working, but was ready for a more relaxed lifestyle. Depending on the organization and activity, volunteers can often set their own schedules and commit as much or as little time as they like the job.
Volunteering is also a great way for seniors to continue to share their expertise and develop skills. This can take the shape of mentoring young people in a former career field, by offering advice and perspective on industry changes. Volunteering can also give retirees a chance to further develop existing skills, both those originally learned on the job or taken up as a hobby.
Serving as a volunteer is also a great way to widen their social circle. Many organizations recruit volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life. This may be a perfect opportunity for seniors to make new friends and connect with people they may not have met otherwise. These interactions can also help bridge cultural and generational divides.
Best of all, volunteering boasts some potential health benefits that may especially interest seniors and their careers. A review of 87 studies found that volunteering could impact the health of the volunteering important ways. Volunteers reported high satisfaction with their life, high self-esteem, and less stress. They were more likely to adopt healthy lifestyles, and may even live longer than people who do not volunteer their time!
Overall, older adults who volunteer were reported to be happier than those that don’t. A study of both Maori and non-Maori New Zealanders also found that this increased happiness is more evident for older adults with fewer economic resources.
Ways to get involved
For those interested in volunteering, there may still be confusion over where to start or other barriers holding them back. Luckily, there are thousands of ways for older adults to share their time with others, catering to most ages and abilities.
Older adults may be more comfortable starting with an organization or group they’re familiar with. This could be through a favorite charity, their place of worship or a local non-profit. Activities may be in a group or one-on-one, depending on what the person is most comfortable with. Organisations are often very accommodating and may be able to work around medical needs to ensure the health and wellbeing of their volunteers.
Finally, getting the senior’s family, friends and caregivers involved can be a wonderful way for everyone to give back to the community together! This might be a particularly good option for aging adults with special medical needs or who need some assistance. It can also create an opportunity for families and caregivers to get to know each other a bit better, in a neutral space.
Lend a helping hand
Giving back to your community can be a rewarding experience for people of all ages. For retirees, it can be an especially good way to spend their time, with benefits for the volunteer and those they are helping. If you’re a caregiver to an older adult, talk to them today about their interest in volunteering.
About the Author:
James Buesing is a content writer for Momentum Life, a New Zealand-based life insurance company, dedicated to providing easy to get, value for money insurance solutions. He specializes in finance writing, including life insurance, superannuation, and money saving tips.