As you age, you may have a feeling of emptiness where a job once was. Now that you are retired and have more free time, you may be wondering how to fill this gap. Volunteering in your community can help others while also helping yourself.
Many seniors adopt a sedentary lifestyle after retirement, spending less time active in the community. Rather than only the biological process of aging, a number of studies show that a sedentary lifestyle may be a key factor in increasing elderly health problems. According to the Psychology Journal, physical inactivity is a risk factor for the development of health problems including the three most common causes of death in seniors: coronary heart disease, cancer, and stroke1.
Senior citizens are also at greater risk of developing depression than those in other age groups. Among the causes of depression in the elderly are deteriorating physical health, social isolation, decreased sense of worth, and lack of purpose1.
Remaining active in the community through volunteering can help improve physical health, mental health, and quality of life. There are several nationwide programs to help individuals like you stay involved.
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
The retired and senior volunteer program (RSVP) is one of the nation’s largest volunteer networks for those aged 55 and up. While volunteering as a member of RSVP, you can use skills you’ve built over the years or develop new ones. A variety of volunteer activities are available within your current community.
Volunteer opportunities with RSVP are extremely diverse, and may depend on the community you live in. Some activities may include organizing neighborhood watch programs, tutoring disabled youth, renovating homes, and assisting victims of natural disasters. While many activities are available, you choose how, where, and how often you want to serve as an RSVP volunteer.
Foster grandparents are role models, mentors, and friends to disabled or disadvantaged children. This program provides a volunteer opportunity for those aged 55 and up, along with a way to stay active in the community.
As a foster grandparent, some activities you may be completing are:
- Helping children learn to read
- Providing one-on-one tutoring
- Mentoring troubled teens
- Mentoring young mothers
- Caring for children with disabilities
- Helping children who have been abused
Volunteers in the foster grandparents program can choose the amount of time they would like to serve, generally committing to between 15 and 40 hours per week. Some locations where these volunteers function are schools, hospitals, juvenile detention institutions, and daycare facilities.
Senior companions provide assistance and friendship to adults who have difficulty with daily living tasks. These adult clients have physical, emotional, or mental health limitations, and are generally elderly.
Volunteers for this program are aged 55 and up, and devote between 15 and 40 hours per week to helping an average of two to four adult clients. Clients generally live independently, and may require assistance with grocery shopping, paying bills, light housekeeping, and finding transportation.
Companions help clients to remain living independently in their own homes rather than moving to a care institution. They also help to keep clients from becoming lonely by providing recurring visits and conversations that would be held among friends.
Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering has a great impact on your community. By spending time helping others in your community, you become more connected within the community and feel a stronger sense of belonging, along with contributing to the health and longevity of the community. Volunteering can help you to make a meaningful contribution to society, helping you to develop and maintain a healthy sense of self-worth, sense of accomplishment, and confidence.
Elderly volunteering can be extremely beneficial to organizations, as seniors often possess skills accumulated from a lifetime of employment and life experiences. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship in which the volunteer organizations benefit from qualified volunteers while the senior volunteers benefit from the structured environment which provides socialization and physical activity.
When you volunteer, you’re not just helping others, you’re helping yourself. Volunteering can lead to new friends and new discoveries. Volunteering regularly can also lead to a more active and healthier lifestyle, along with a more optimistic outlook on life than those who do not contribute to their communities. Spending time helping others can also have a positive effect on your self-esteem while enriching your life.
Volunteering fills the void of structure created by retirement and brings many benefits to daily life. If you are retired and have feelings of emptiness that your job once filled, consider volunteering with one of these programs or seeking out other volunteer opportunities in your community.
1McDonald, T.W., Chown, E.L., Tabb, J.E., Schaeffer, A.K., & Howard, E.K. (2013). The impact of volunteering on seniors’ health and quality of life: An assessment of the retired and senior volunteer program. Psychology, 4(3), 283-290.