A dedicated cadre of senior volunteers are helping themselves as they help communities across America.
The most immediate benefit casual observers note is that senior volunteers are making a difference by giving of their time and talents to underserved populations.
That benefit is immense.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) says more than a quarter of older adults in the US within the 55+ demographic contributed an average of more than 3 billion hours of service in communities annually between 2008 and 2010. The economic contribution: an estimated $64 billion.
In Washington state, for example, volunteers are keeping local state charities afloat. The Interfaith Treasure House in Washougal relies on 150 volunteers, most of whom are dedicated seniors in their 70s and 80s, who assist with various tasks, including preparing meals.
“It’s enjoyable and it’s a little fellowship together,” Joe Smith, 76, who regularly volunteers at the area’s Share program told the Columbian. “It gives us old codgers something to do.”
CNCS found that those seniors who volunteer can reap physical and mental health benefit.
Dr. Erwin Tan, director of CNCS’ Senior Corp program, said:
Along with delivering enormous social and economic benefit to communities nationwide, volunteer service also allows older Americans to remain active and healthy, an outcome that is critical as our nation strives to lower health care costs in times of budget constraints. More than two decades of research establishes a strong relationship between volunteering and health, and we are seeing that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression and disease later in life than those who do not volunteer.
“As the 78 million–strong Baby Boomer generation looks for ways to give back to their communities, Senior Corps offers a powerful way to link them to meaningful opportunities to make a difference,” he added. “Older Americans bring a lifetime of skills and experience that can be tapped to meet community challenges. Our Senior Corps programs engage older Americans in solving problems and serving those most in need, making senior service a vital investment for our nation now and into the future.”
Volunteering benefits seniors by allowing them to remain engaged and active, Karen Nowosielski, volunteer manager at Morris Hospital, told The Joliet Herald-News’ Jeanne Millsap: “It does help them keep active with people. It helps them not dwell on the negative things in the world, it contributes to the community, and it helps them to participate in life.”
Nowosielski says volunteering allows seniors to continue using problem-solving skills, but in different roles and new situations. She says that some of her volunteers have confided that volunteering has helped them fill hours that would have otherwise been lonely and also helped them cope with other difficult life situations
There are a wide range of organizations seeking volunteers in various capacities with all types of skills. One such organization is the Corporation for National & Community Service, which maintains a database of available opportunities in communities across the United States.