The Health Benefits of Volunteering During Retirement Years

If you are looking for ways to stay happier and healthier in retirement, volunteering for a cause close to your heart might be one.

Every April non-profit organizations in the Pacific Northwest and across the country take time out to raise awareness about the important role volunteers play. While National Volunteer Month is a great time to explore volunteer opportunities near you, it’s also a good time to learn how donating your time and talent to a local non-profit can actually help improve your health during retirement years.

Isolation as a Health Risk for Seniors

Health care professionals have long believed that isolation and loneliness among older adults leads to a wide variety of health problems beyond depression. Turns out they are right. Research shows social isolation increases a senior’s risk for diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other illnesses.

But it isn’t just chronic disease you should be concerned about if you or an older adult you love is spending too much time alone. Scientists at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London found social isolation to be a predictor of early mortality.

The good news is volunteerism, which has benefits for your mind, body and spirit, is an effective and enjoyable solution. The Puget Sound area offers many volunteer opportunities.

7 Benefits of Volunteering during Retirement Years

Talk with anyone who is part of a volunteer program, and you will no doubt hear them say how meaningful the experience is. That “they get more than they give” is a common refrain.

An estimated nine million people aged 65 and older volunteer their time each year. Seniors who volunteer at least 100 hours a year — just eight or nine hours a month — enjoy better mental and physical health. Aging experts believe it’s because volunteerism provides older adults with a sense of purpose that translates to a more physically active and engaged lifestyle.

We know that volunteering also helps retirees:

  1. Make new friends
  2. Learn new skills
  3. Feel more confident
  4. Socialize and engage with others
  5. Avoid feeling lonely
  6. Stay physically and mentally fit
  7. Increase the daily joy in their lives

How to Find a Meaningful Volunteer Opportunity

Finding the right volunteer project starts with reflecting on your skills and interests. Ask yourself a few questions to help you clarify in your own mind what type of volunteer work you might enjoy most:

  • Volunteer Time Commitment: Are you seeking an on-going opportunity or would you prefer to work on one-time projects every month? Senior living communities in the Seattle area, animal rescue organizations, young reader programs and other organizations all look for volunteers who can join them for short-term or long-term projects.
  • Use Current Skills or Learn New Ones: What hobbies and interests do you enjoy sharing with others? Don’t feel locked in to only those skills you currently possess. Many non-profit organizations offer on-the-job training to volunteers willing to help the organization.
  • What Type of Population Interests You: Do you prefer working with special needs children, animals, the arts or adults with chronic or life-limiting illnesses? Think about who or what cause you might like to donate your time to.

One final tip is not to let a disability or mobility problem keep you from volunteering. Many non-profits can arrange for transportation for volunteers. Volunteer Match is another great resource. They can help connect homebound seniors with Virtual Volunteer opportunities that can be performed from home.

Discussion3 Comments

  1. It’s interesting how you said that there is better mental and physical health for those who volunteer regularly. Volunteering for a child charity would probably be especially good. That way you could help kids who really need it and who are just starting their lives.

  2. That is really nice that you could make new friends if you volunteer after retirement. Maybe it would be good to find some opportunities to volunteer for someone who has retired. Then they would be able to do something and wouldn’t be as lonely.

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