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The Benefits of Volunteering in Retirement

Senior volunteers

People often associate retirement with long days filled with leisure activities and freedom. While it’s true that retirees typically have more flexible schedules than younger adults, a lack of purpose isn’t really a good thing. Living purposeful days during retirement is linked to a healthier life. It also helps prevent isolation and loneliness, both of which contribute to a range of health issues among older adults.

If you’re a senior interested in creating more purposeful days, volunteering for an organization or project you feel passionate about might be the key. Not only will it give the spirit a boost, but you’ll reap physical health benefits too. A few of the most common advantages of volunteering include being less sedentary and more social.

The Benefits of Volunteering in Retirement

Have a conversation with an older adult who spends time volunteering in retirement, and you’ll likely  hear them say how meaningful the experience is. You get more than you give is a common sentiment among senior volunteers.

Adults 65 and older account for an estimated 25% of this country’s volunteer force. Seniors who volunteer 100 hours a year — just 8 or 9 hours a month — enjoy better mental and physical health. Researchers believe it’s because volunteerism during retirement provides older adults with a sense of purpose that results in a more physically active and engaged lifestyle.

Other benefits of volunteering during retirement include:

  • Make friends: For a host of reasons, seniors often see their circle of friends shrink. It can be tough to find ways to expand your social circle once you retire. Volunteering provides that opportunity.
  • Continue learning: Becoming a lifelong learner is another way to protect cognitive health. Volunteers often have opportunities to learn new skills and take on interesting challenges.
  • Increase confidence: Newly retired people sometimes experience a dip in confidence when they leave behind a career that was so much a part of their identity. The sense of purpose that comes from volunteering in retirement can help a senior feel empowered and productive again.
  • Socialize: While volunteer jobs are important work, they also give people a chance to socialize. Some agencies rely heavily on volunteers, which provides ample opportunity to work and play all at once!
  • Spark joy: There’s great satisfaction in knowing you’re making a difference in people’s lives — or animals’ lives, if you choose to volunteer for an animal welfare agency.
  • Avoid isolation: When you don’t have to head out to work anymore and your children are grown and on their own, it’s easy to fall into unhealthy patterns. Staying home alone and sitting too much become more common. Donating your time to a cause gives you a reason to get up and get moving.

This last benefit impacts more than mental health. Senior isolation is an actual health risk tied to chronic illness and even early mortality.

Preventing Health Risks Associated with Isolation

Health care professionals believed that senior isolation and loneliness contributed to a variety of health problems long before there was research to back it up. We now know just how right they were. Social isolation increases a senior’s risk for diabetes, depression, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, chronic disease isn’t the only health issue associated with isolation and loneliness during retirement. Scientists also found that isolated seniors were at increased risk for hospitalization and early mortality.

By sharing your time and talent with a nonprofit agency, you’ll likely improve your quality life. Here are a few tips for doing that.

Finding Volunteer Work during Retirement

As you begin to explore volunteer opportunities, it might help to clarify what causes and projects are close to your heart. Ask yourself:

  • Time commitment: Are you looking for one agency you can work with, or would you prefer one-time projects for different organizations? Or maybe a combination of both?
  • Type of organization: Do you love helping animals or enjoy the arts? Think about what interests you and investigate nonprofit agencies nearby that might need volunteers.
  • Talent to share: While most organizations will happily train volunteers, if you have a particular talent to share, explore agencies that could put them to good use. For example, senior living communities often welcome volunteers to lead art workshops or play the piano.
  • Location: It might also be a good idea to consider the location of the volunteer opportunity, especially if you’re starting to limit driving or avoid driving during peak traffic times.

Once you’ve narrowed your focus a bit, you can use resources like your local United Way chapter or VolunteerMatch to connect with a cause.

Become Part of the Vibrant Lifestyle at Galleria Woods

At Galleria Woods, we know how important lifestyle is to our residents. We offer a robust variety of meaningful activities and events to enjoy every day, and that includes volunteering. Residents can donate their time and talent to one of our many on-campus projects. Or perhaps take advantage of our desirable location and volunteer at places like the Greater Birmingham Humane Society or the Birmingham Zoo.

Contact us today to schedule a visit and learn how you can become a part of the lifestyle at Galleria Woods!