Retirement doesn’t mean retiring from the things they’re passionate for. In fact, for many older adults, the retirement years are a golden opportunity to impact their communities positively. According to a recent report by the United Health Foundation, one in five seniors age 65 and older – 22 percent – spent their time volunteering in the past 12 months.
Why are so many seniors volunteering? Well, if you ask them, they’re doing it because they want to give back and because it can be incredibly rewarding. If you’re an older adult looking to make your retirement count, read on to learn more about the benefits and discover some excellent opportunities to give back.
Benefits of Volunteering in Retirement
Volunteering isn’t just a great way to spend time. In fact, it has been proven to provide many benefits for your health and well-being. Here are just a few reasons why volunteering in your senior years can be meaningful and impactful for both you and your community.
- It keeps you socially engaged. After leaving the workforce, many seniors can find it difficult to make new friends and find ways to stay connected. Volunteering puts you in a position to meet a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and generations. Staying socially connected improves mental health, reduces depression, and can actually help keep your mind sharp.
- It keeps you fit. You don’t necessarily think of volunteering as physical activity. Still, it turns out that seniors who volunteer report having better sleep quality, more mobility, better blood panels, and overall better health than non-volunteers.
- It gives you a sense of purpose. Having a purpose is an essential part of living a fulfilled, meaningful life. Many individuals find purpose through their work or as a parent, so it’s essential to find new ways to create purpose during retirement. Volunteering can help older adults do just that.
- It keeps you young at heart. Age isn’t just a number. Have you ever met someone who seems much younger than their physical age – or, conversely, a younger person who acts as if they’re ancient? Volunteering helps keep brains active, minds curious, and spirits optimistic. Continually seeking out new life experiences and finding ways to enjoy life keeps us young at heart, which results in a much happier, more fulfilled, and more meaningful life.
9 Great Volunteering Opportunities For Seniors
If you’re an older adult looking for a way to lend a hand in your local community, here are nine excellent volunteer opportunities.
1. Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a nationwide nonprofit organization whose mission is to help families build strength, stability, and self-reliance by providing a place to call home. Building homes for families in your community is one key part of Habitat’s mission. It is an excellent opportunity for experienced volunteers to use their technical skills to help the community.
However, there are also non-construction ways for volunteers to help in the mission, such as fundraising, soliciting tax-deductible donations, or volunteering to work at your local Habitat ReStore (a non-profit home improvement and donation center that sells building materials, appliances, and other home-related essentials).
2. Local, State, and National Parks
If you’re passionate about the great outdoors and preserving the natural beauty and wonder of the United States, consider volunteering your time with a park or preserve. The National Park Service provides volunteer opportunities across the country, and state and local parks are always looking for people to lend a hand and build awareness of nature preservation and conservation. Park departments often have special volunteer programs for special events or long-term commitments for volunteers including being a tour guide, a campground host, or an educator. For those living near Greensboro, NC, you’ll have your pick of beautiful and historical parks including Haw River State Park and the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.
3. Your Local Food Bank
Food insecurity is a real problem for many families in America. As inflation increases, more and more individuals need assistance to feed their families with healthy, fresh, and affordable food. It comes as no surprise that local, state, and national food banks need assistance with daily tasks such as food delivery, food selection, donation gathering, and more. Feeding America is a nationwide resource that lists food banks in your area where you can donate your time and efforts.
4. Community Gardens
Enjoy the fresh air, exercise your green thumb, and help feed or beautify your community – sound like a dream come true for you? If so, volunteering at your local community garden may be the perfect volunteer opportunity for you. Churches, nonprofits, and local agencies across the United States have gardens that thrive due to the care and love of volunteers like yourself. If your community doesn’t yet have a local garden, you can start your own to bring some color and flavor to beautify your area.
5. Animal Shelters
If caring for fuzzy (or feathered or scaled) friends is your passion, there are countless animal shelters and rescues that could use your help. While large organizations such as The Humane Society of the United States are the most well-known, your local rescues and organizations such as the Guilford County Animal Services are always in need of volunteers to care for and play with animals, answer phones, clean cages and volunteer at fundraising events.
If you’re drawn to a certain animal or situation. In that case, many different rescues are geared towards specific needs, such as breed-related rescues, rescues for senior animals, rescues for disabled animals, and more. Suppose you want the joy of a pet without the permanent responsibility. In that case, you might consider becoming a foster parent for a dog or cat so they can live in a loving environment before they go off to their forever home.
6. Arts Organizations
Perhaps music, dance, or art is something you’ve always loved. Arts organizations such as the symphony, art museums, community choirs, and other artistic endeavors are excellent ways for seniors to donate their time and talents. Whether you’re a performer, prefer working backstage, or enjoy teaching, there are always ways for older adults to showcase their talents. Consider volunteering as an usher at an area theater or teach an art class at the local children’s museum.
7. Sporting Events
For seniors who have more of an athletic bent, consider volunteering as an assistant coach or event organizer for your local schools and community leagues. You can also volunteer your time by participating in the sports yourself! It’s a great way to give back while getting a little exercise and scratching your competitive itch.
8. Working With Kids
Spending time with children can be one of the most meaningful and rewarding volunteer opportunities that retirees can experience. There are a wide variety of resources and programs where older adults can donate their time, such as the AmeriCorps Foster Grandparent Program and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Local organizations, schools, churches and hospitals often have tutoring and mentoring programs as well.
According to Senior Corps (a branch of AmeriCorps designed for adults 55+), volunteering with children can also have some financial benefits. Some foster grandparent programs offer volunteers a tax-free hourly stipend, while public school systems may offer retirees a rebate on their property taxes for volunteering a certain number of hours in the classroom.
9. Working With Seniors
Being a caregiver or companion to an older adult can be incredibly rewarding for younger seniors who are still healthy and active. Seniors Helping Seniors is a national organization that provides in-home senior care services to help elderly adults live independently and safely in their own homes. Senior living communities and hospice chapters are other places where seniors can volunteer to help their elder peers. From providing companionship to helping with administrative tasks to creating needed items for those you serve, there are endless ways to share your experience and caring.
How to Get Started Volunteering as an Older Adult
The best place to get started volunteering as an older adult is to visit the Senior Corps website. As a branch of AmeriCorps (formerly known as The Corporation for National and Community Service), Senior Corps helps link seniors with thousands of opportunities both locally and nationally. It’s probably the best and broadest place to start your volunteer search and discover what opportunities are in your area.
After that, ask around! Your friends, family, and community members are excellent resources for discovering where local needs are – and where you can use your talents and life experiences in the most meaningful way possible.
Find Your Purpose in a Community Founded on Fellowship and Service.
WhiteStone was founded in 1912 as a Masonic and Eastern Star senior living community. For more than 100 years, those principles have guided us in caring for our residents as well as finding ways for us to give back to our community of Greensboro, NC. Our residents enjoy the freedom of our maintenance-free, carefree independent living lifestyle that allows them to stay active, pursue their passions, and give back to others. Give us a call at 336-459-0904 to learn more about life in our community.