Volunteering Benefits Seniors & Their Communities
May 6, 2017
For an increasing number of seniors, retirement isn’t so much a “time to stop working” as it is a “time to stop working for pay.” More than 20 million seniors volunteer their time to community organizations. In fact, a third of all volunteers are 55 or older. Volunteering benefits seniors: many report greater social engagement, better health, and a sense of accomplishment.
Senior Volunteers Find Many Opportunities
Retirement is the time when you can choose what to do, when to do it, and how. No longer a slave to the time clock or paycheck, retirement means you have the luxury and time to find work that you’re passionate about and jump in.
There are a number of organizations that help match seniors with volunteer positions. The more specific you can be about your skills and likes/dislikes, the easier it will be to find a good match. The “5 Ws” that news writers use is a good start:
- Who? Perhaps you already have a specific hospital, church, or community group in mind.
- What? Consider what jobs you’d prefer. Do you want to use your skill set from your pre-retirement job or try something new?
- Where? Volunteer jobs are available down the street, across town, or across the ocean.
- When? Be realistic about how much time you can or want to devote to a volunteer job.
- Why? Some people volunteer out of religious commitment or a passion for social justice. For others, it’s a way to have fun and make friends. All are great reasons, but represent different volunteer paths.
Volunteering Benefits Seniors in Many Ways
Volunteering can make you healthier, a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University found:
Adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. High blood pressure is an important indicator of health because it contributes to heart disease, stroke, and premature death.
It can also make you happier. Acts of kindness and altruism help alleviate depression. Working with others decreases the social isolation that many older people feel after retirement. For a significant number of people, the work environment offers important social connections. Recent retirees often feel at loose ends when that ends, and volunteering is a great way rebuild social networks.
Some volunteer positions even offer financial incentives. Some jobs, like the Foster Grandparent program, have monetary stipends, but those are tightly monitored and regulated. Other volunteer jobs, like museum docent, national park service volunteer, and thrift shop worker may offer free admission, merchandise discounts, or other perks.
You could even see tax savings if you itemize. Volunteers generally can’t deduct their time, but other expenses like mileage, travel expenses, uniforms, and unreimbursed expenses (like long-distance calls and postage) are often deductible. Check with the organization to make sure it’s an IRS-recognized non-profit before claiming any deductions.
Non-profits Value Their Senior Volunteers
In previous generations, hearing loss, vision problems, and mobility issues kept seniors close to home. But today’s technological advances help seniors stay active and productive. Scooters, hearing aids, screen readers, and medical alert devices all help seniors stay active and safe. They can be mentors, teachers, and leaders long after formal retirement.
Non-profits realize this and welcome senior volunteers. They tend to volunteer more time overall than younger workers, and are seen as more reliable. It’s a win/win: volunteering benefits seniors as much as their work benefits non-profits.
Find a volunteer job for yourself or encourage your senior relative to reach out to a non-profit. It will be the beginning of a rewarding, life-affirming relationship!