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Ways Seniors Can Volunteer in the Community

September 8, 2021

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Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” Arguably no one knows that better than senior volunteers — older adults who’ve successfully retired from their careers and are now focused on volunteer opportunities that allow seniors to give back to their communities.

One organization, Independent Sector, put a dollar figure on the value of volunteering, estimating that in 2020 each volunteer hour was worth $28.54. When multiplied by the millions of people who contribute their time and talents annually, that’s billions of dollars in labor that are being donated to hold up the foundation of civil society. And there are nearly as many available volunteer opportunities for older adults as there are older adults in the U.S.

Contributing your time and talents is a worthy pursuit to be sure. Volunteering improves not only the lives of countless people we help, but also enhances our own happiness and self-worth. And these aren’t the only benefits.

Benefits of volunteerism in retirement

Why should the elderly volunteer? The answer is obvious: They have just as much to gain from the experience as those they give their time to.

  1. Your psychological health can greatly improve. Older volunteers report a greater sense of satisfaction with their lives, say they’re less depressed and less socially isolated than their nonvolunteering peers, and have a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.
  2. It keeps your brain active. Engaging in activities stimulates your brain and sharpens your mental acuity. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found older adults who took part in some form of volunteer services were able to delay or even reverse declining brain function.
  3. It keeps your body active, too. Older adults who volunteer tend to move around a lot more than their nonvolunteering counterparts. Whether it’s serving meals at a shelter, cleaning up a local park, or walking around your neighborhood as a companion to someone else, you’ll get more opportunities for physical activity.
  4. You can develop all kinds of new friendships. You’re guaranteed to meet new people of all ages when you volunteer. And all generations benefit. One of the best ways to bridge the generation gap is to volunteer your time to youth-focused organizations like reading groups at your local library or after-school tutoring groups. 
  5. It may help you live longer. Research published in the journal Health Psychology reported that people who volunteer live longer than people who don’t. If you’ve asked yourself why should elderly people volunteer, that’s a pretty clear-cut reason!

So now you know definitively volunteering is good for you. Are you now wondering how you can volunteer as a senior? We can help you with that.

How you can volunteer as a senior

If you’ve searched the internet for volunteer opportunities for seniors, Google will tell you there are almost 400 million results. But you definitely don’t need to look at all of them. Instead, start with your own type of search and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I hope to gain and learn from my volunteer work? This one is the biggest question for you to answer. Franciscan Ministries’ mission is to express love in action, and each of the Franciscan Ministries’ communities offers many opportunities to make a difference.
  2. What do I feel passionate about? Think of the things you love: maybe it’s music or building things or baking. Decide what you love to do, and then look for ways to share your talent with others through volunteering.
  3. What skills or abilities do I want to contribute? Perhaps you have the time but don’t know what talents you have to contribute. It’s OK if you don’t know how to do something but have a desire to learn. Many volunteer organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, will teach you the skills you need.
  4. What groups of people do I most want to assist in my volunteering? Do you want to be around high schoolers or people currently in your former career field? Do you have a passion for helping inner-city kids, homeless women or LGBTQ youth? Defining this can help you narrow down your volunteer choices. 
  5. What can I commit to? Be realistic about how much time you can spend volunteering. 

Once you know what you’re looking for and how much time you can give, check out these volunteering possibilities.

Volunteer opportunities for seniors

  • Lend a hand at your local library. You may find opportunities to teach English as a second language, lead reading groups for school-age children, work with adults trying to improve their literacy skills, and much more.
  • Provide meals to people. So many Americans are struggling with food security: people experiencing homelessness, children, and even older adults. Often, the company is just as nourishing as the food. Volunteer to deliver meals through Meals on Wheels, volunteer at your local food bank, or talk with your church about how you can help feed your community.
  • Get involved with your area animal shelter. Local shelters are often underfunded and need volunteers to help care for the pets they take in. Reach out to your local shelter for ways to give your time.
  • Help out your favorite museum. Become a docent and give tours, or offer to help as a member of the unpaid staff. 

Discover more meaning and sense of purpose at a Franciscan Ministries community

Franciscan Ministries’ mission is to celebrate life and serve with joy. In fact, joyful living is one of the main tenets of each Franciscan Ministries community.

Learn how you can make a meaningful difference in others’ lives — and how you may find even more meaning in each of your days — by joining us as a resident. Contact us to talk with one of our senior living counselors, or learn more about any one of our 10 communities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. We look forward to serving you!