Volunteering: Benefits for Seniors

Posted by on Feb 24, 2011 in Health Signals |

Why do Canadian seniors volunteer? A survey of senior volunteers in Canada finds that 95% volunteer for a cause they believe in.  Seventy percent said they volunteered for a cause that had personally affected them. Some volunteered as a way to use their skill base and years of experience (81%). Others were looking for a way to explore their own strengths (57%). 

What else motivates seniors to volunteer?
Developing new skills and staying connected to their own passions inspires many seniors to volunteer.  Volunteering leads to meeting new people, staying active in the community, and serving others. It can help keep cultural or religious traditions alive. 

Some older persons also find the chance to fulfill lifelong dreams and create new ambitions through volunteering. Seniors who volunteer report feeling very satisfied with their lives…AND they report that sentiment at a higher rate than seniors who do not volunteer.

What can volunteering do for YOU?
Volunteering can improve your health.  It can enhance self-esteem, coping abilities, and feelings of social usefulness.  Volunteering increases social activity. Research into health benefits of volunteering suggests that forming these social relationships acts as a buffer against stress and illness. Some experts even conclude that social relationships may be as important to overall health as avoiding risks such as smoking and high blood pressure.

How can you find the right organization?

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) suggests asking the following questions to help define the best volunteering opportunity for you:

  • Why do I want to become a volunteer?
  • What are the benefits I am looking for from volunteering?
  • What skills and abilities can I offer?
  • What do I enjoy doing? What do I dislike doing?
  • What issues are important to me?
  • How much time can I give? What times are most suitable for me?

Reasons for volunteering may be as profound as feeling an ethical pull to help change Canadian society – or as lighthearted as wanting to get to know people in the community. But getting involved, on any level, not only benefits society. It also benefits the volunteer. Everyone wins.

Vol.2, No.12;
© ElderWise Inc. 2006

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