How Volunteering Helps Seniors with Aging Gracefully

Elder man sitting down at the table with his young granddaughter while they work on flashcards.

After years of working, raising a family and other responsibilities, retirement can be a gift for older adults. Some decide to travel, learn new skills or actively participate in lifelong learning.

Yet one option can make a difference to the individual – and others: volunteering. Giving back to the community or providing time and talent to an organization can support aging gracefully and bring true joy to life.

The benefits of volunteering for older adults

Volunteering brings great value to organizations and those they serve. It also can provide health benefits to the giver as well.

1. Improved physical and mental health

Older adults who volunteer often experience improved physical and mental health. How? Reduced stress and increased positive feelings occur from the sense of meaning and appreciation that volunteering can provide. A reduction in risk for heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness can also result.

2. Provides a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills

Volunteers not only age more gracefully but gain a sense of purpose, especially when their work feels meaningful. Older volunteers often state they experience greater life satisfaction, self-esteem and opportunities to learn new skills.

3. Nurtures new and existing relationships

One of the benefits of volunteering includes more social interaction and can even help build a support system that is based on shared interests. For those who have diverse backgrounds, this can expand their exposure to social skills with others.

4. Improved social outreach

Those who volunteer may find ways to improve their skills, provide a way to stay active and engaged during retirement and to meet new people and form friendships – as well as serve their communities.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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Aging gracefully from volunteering

Take a look at how volunteering can help us to age gracefully – and live well:

  • Increased physical activity: Volunteering can encourage seniors to stay physically active, whether they’re walking around a local park to clean up litter or helping to organize a food drive. Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining strength, flexibility and endurance, which can help prevent injuries and chronic illnesses associated with aging.
  • Improved cognitive function: Engaging in volunteer activities can stimulate the mind and help keep cognitive functions sharp. Activities that require problem-solving, planning, and execution can particularly offer mental exercise, potentially delaying the onset of dementia and other cognitive impairments.
  • Longer lifespan: Research suggests that volunteering may be associated with lower mortality rates among older adults. The social connections formed and the physical activity involved in volunteering can lead to improved health outcomes and longevity.
  • Reduced risk of depression: Volunteering helps older adults build social connections and networks that can protect against loneliness and depression. Engaging with others in meaningful activities can provide a sense of belonging and community.
  • Increased self-esteem: Contributing to the welfare of others can enhance seniors’ self-esteem and happiness. The appreciation and positive feedback received from volunteering can contribute to a sense of accomplishment and pride.
  • Renewed sense of purpose: Participating in volunteer work can give older adults a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in life. This can be especially significant during the retirement years when the transition out of the workforce may leave some feeling a lack of identity or purpose.

Volunteer opportunities for seniors

For older adults who are looking to volunteer, consider the following opportunities that may be available in your area:

  • Local schools and educational programs: Seniors can volunteer to read to children, assist in classrooms or participate in after-school programs – providing valuable support and intergenerational connections.
  • Environmental conservation: Opportunities such as participating in park clean-ups, assisting in local gardens or contributing to wildlife conservation efforts can be rewarding and physically engaging for those passionate about the environment.
  • Community centers and nonprofits: Many organizations rely on volunteers for various roles, including administrative tasks, event planning and direct service provision, such as serving meals at homeless shelters.
  • Hospitals and health clinics: Volunteering at healthcare facilities can involve interacting with patients, assisting visitors or supporting staff with non-medical tasks.

Senior living: volunteer opportunities

For those who choose to make their home in a senior living community, there are also opportunities to volunteer:

1. Mentoring programs: Seniors can share their knowledge, skills and life experiences by mentoring new residents or staff members. This can include tutoring, career advice or sharing crafts and hobbies.

2. Leading recreational activities: Organizing and leading activities such as book clubs, gardening clubs or exercise classes can be a rewarding way for seniors to volunteer their time while engaging in their interests.

3. Community outreach initiatives: Participating in or leading community outreach programs, such as organizing food drives or donations for charity allows seniors to contribute to the broader community.

Senior living communities can play a crucial role in facilitating volunteer opportunities, empowering their residents to lead vibrant, purposeful lives through service. By embracing and promoting volunteerism, communities ensure their residents not only have the chance to help others but also receive personal and gratifying benefits in return.

Discover life at a Northbridge community

If you’re considering senior living for yourself or a family member, we hope you’ll visit one of our communities. You’ll find a maintenance-free, activity-filled and engaging lifestyle to help support your wellness goals.

You’ll also discover many benefits in a Northbridge Senior Living community, including our Signature Program S.T.A.R. Club (Sharp Thinking, Active Residents) – which offers our residents several activities to participate in with others, including:

  • Daily exercise group
  • Walking club
  • Tai Chi & yoga
  • Nutritional classes
  • Library and book club
  • Museum outings
  • Artists in residence program
  • Multi-generational music
  • Genealogy Generations

We’re here to answer any of your questions. Please contact us if we can provide further information or if you would like to schedule a personalized tour. Download our complimentary guide, Choosing the Right Community.

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