Volunteering is for everyone. There is no upper or lower age limit to volunteering. Children, youth or seniors, the benefits of volunteering are for all to reap. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I read a recent study which showed that 1/3rd of America’s volunteers are senior citizens. WOW! If that statistics was true for the rest of the world, there was no need for this article. But in India (and other developing countries), we rarely see many seniors volunteering.
There’s a lack of push from the families and from the non-profit sector for seniors to volunteer. Seniors represents a depth of knowledge, experience and skills and can make a real difference to organisations and individuals. I believe the scenario can change if seniors themselves come forward to volunteer, because leaving aside the positive impact that volunteering has on others, volunteering is very rewarding for the senior volunteer himself/ herself.
Here are some reasons why seniors should volunteer!
Improved Physical and Mental Health
Time and again research has shown that volunteerism contributes in delaying the onset of common health problems faced by elderly people. Not just physical health, Volunteering also improves cognitive functions. Studying accounts, drawing plans, writing viewpoints, networking with people; volunteering improves mental alertness. Another study by Psychological Science shows that elders who gave support to others had lower mortality rates. Providing social support is actually more beneficial than receiving it!
A sense of purpose and community
Senior citizens who have worked all their lives may sometimes start questioning their sense of identity when their responsibilities are suddenly reduced significantly. Reaching out and helping others gives them a sense of purpose and working with other volunteers, provides them with a social network. As the Institute of Volunteering Research found that “for the older person, voluntary work can: help maintain a sense of purpose and self-respect, particularly for those who have retired from paid work; lessen the isolation felt by those cut off from social networks in the workplace and from their families.”
Learn something new
One is never too old to learn something new! Volunteering gives new energy and an opportunity to use and enlarge their experience even in the later life. At 67, when Sydney Kling applied to Peace Corps, she just wanted to go “someplace exciting” – to explore and be part of a new culture while at the same time use her skills as a nurse to help the local communities.
Because you can make a difference
Retiring from one’s life does not mean retiring from work. I would actually go as far to say that seniors have a responsibility to share their skills and knowledge for the greater good! Whether as a foster grandparent helping a young child, a companion for another elderly or an adviser to a non-profit organisation, knowing that you can make a difference is reason enough for you to step out and really make a difference.
70-year-old Chao Yueh-nu, who has been volunteering since last 23 years rightly says;
One is never too old, nor it ever too late to be a volunteer.