The Benefits of Volunteering for Seniors

Bethesda Health | April 14, 2017

Why is volunteering important?

One answer – it’s gratifying to use your talents to help others while asking nothing in return. However, helping others offers plenty of benefits to the health and well-being of the volunteer as well.

Each year, people in the United States donate about 3 billion hours of their time to others, and more than a quarter of that total comes from older adult volunteers. Many seniors volunteer because they’re retired and have the free time. Their children are grown, and they are without many of the day-to-day responsibilities of families with children in the house.

“Many times, people who volunteer are motivated by a personal experience,” said Leslie Simon, Auxiliary Coordinator with Bethesda Health Group. “They had a loved one who received help from a volunteer in a hospice or nursing home setting. They have experienced firsthand the impact volunteers can have, and they want to give back. It’s a “pay it forward” kind of thing. It’s comforting to feel that, since I did something to help someone else, hopefully, someone will do the same sort of thing for me one day.”

3 Reasons Why Seniors Should Volunteer

Physical and Mental Health Benefits

According to numerous studies, volunteers who are over 50 years old have reported significant improvements to their mental health, including enhanced productivity, self-esteem, personal growth, and increased social activity. Staying active helps seniors keep their cognitive abilities sharp and focused.

In addition, studies show that volunteers who have experienced the loss of a loved-one understand and can help address issues of grief better than their peers who don’t participate in a volunteer program.

Prevents Isolation and Depression

Donating time is improves the physical health of seniors because it keeps them active. Regular exercise is key to staying independent and living a long, healthy life. According to a Carnegie-Mellon University study, volunteering is a great stress reliever. People who donate their time have fewer instances of high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of heart disease and strokes.

Provides a Sense of Purpose

Everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Volunteers know that they are being relied on and that the people that they serve are looking forward to seeing them. Volunteering gives seniors a feeling of accomplishment after a job well done. The benefits of volunteering can be recognized with as little as 100 hours of time donated a year, or about two hours per week.

Ways Seniors Can Volunteer

There are many ways that seniors can volunteer to help other seniors. Some organizations seek volunteers to simply act as a companion and spend time visiting fellow seniors. Senior volunteers can also help a senior with household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or assisting with paying bills.

Many volunteers also find creative ways to apply their own skills and talents to create a way to volunteer. Maybe you’re an artist who can teach a painting class or an accountant who can help seniors do their taxes

“I’m a really big believer in positioning,” Leslie says. “I believe that people who choose to volunteer have a calling, and they’re going to end up where the need to be. People who are committed search out exactly the right spot. They’re passionate about helping others.”

Where seniors donate their time matters. Researchers found that volunteers were far more likely to enjoy mental and physical health benefits from volunteering when the organization they work with gives them necessary training, continuing support, and greater flexibility in choosing activities and schedules.

April is National Volunteer Month, so please consider offering your time at a senior-friendly volunteer program. Bethesda volunteer opportunities are available at each of our skilled nursing and assisted living communities, Bethesda Hospice Care or one of the Meals on Wheels programs. Contact Bethesda to learn more about volunteer opportunities across St. Louis.

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