Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Older Adults as Volunteers
Residential Living Community Engagement Manager
Porter Hills Village
Recently, I participated in a community running event. Along the course, there were groups of people cheering on and encouraging the runners as they trudged through their events. I began to pay special attention to these volunteers and wondered, “What on earth would possess someone to come out so early on a cold, rainy Sunday morning to smile and encourage complete strangers?” I also started to notice something. Many of the groups included multiple generations of people. They were bonding over the shared experience of giving back to someone who might need an extra boost of positivity. They were not paid. They did not get notoriety. They got cold. But, they also got smiles and high-fives and hugs in return. And that was true for people of all ages and abilities at this event.
This event may have, perhaps, been a one-time commitment for these volunteers. This one event, perhaps, may spark an interest in those volunteers to look for other ways to help in the community. It may also have inspired some of the race participants to do the same. People volunteer for any number of reasons. It may be a mission of their faith. It may be a way to meet a requirement for a club or school. For whatever reason a person chooses to volunteer, the benefits are great. It is reported that 11 million seniors volunteer over the course of a year. According to AARP, this is 25% of all volunteers. The dollar value of the time they have given to the community is greater than $265 million!
Aside from the direct benefit of helping someone who has a need, there are many benefits a volunteer may also find. Surveys have shown that when people over the age of 60 volunteer, they report having lower disabilities. They may feel they can accomplish something new and can then visualize themselves accomplishing more in the future. They may feel more confident and useful. They could have a deeper purpose and connection to others.
Volunteer experiences help to limit social isolation. This, in turn, leads to lower depression rates and boosts self-confidence. According to AARP, 67% of older adults who volunteer feel an improvement in social connections.
There are numerous ways for older adults to volunteer. These could include actively volunteering, such as collecting, preparing and distributing food. It could also include tutoring or doing general labor (like helping to build houses, assist in lawn work or cleaning up a park). There are also some less active ways to volunteer, like writing cards for active military personnel. Another option is to connect virtually to others, such as working with an online fundraising or community advocacy through social media.
Porter Hills has engaging volunteer opportunities in a variety of settings. We strive to match your interests and talents with needs in our community. If you would like to give your time to help our elders, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.