While most people refer to volunteering as lending a hand or donating valuable resources to worthwhile causes and supporting the lives of people in need, it sometimes goes much further than that.
Many studies have shown that volunteering benefits many aspects of life, citing that human-centric activity brings people together and enhances their well-being — physically, emotionally, and mentally. A 2022 data review of 13,000 participants under observation in 4 consecutive years found that those who volunteered at least 100 hours a year experienced a range of benefits to their general health, such as reduced mortality, reduced physical functioning limitations, increased optimism, and a greater sense of purpose.
What are the benefits of volunteering for the elderly? Discover surprising benefits your parents can expect when they give back to others, and some tips to get them started.
Health and Well-being Benefits of Volunteering in Older Adults
The Surprising Benefits of Volunteering for the Elderly
Promote Physical Health
Physical activity remains a crucial role in promoting healthy aging. Participating in charity work is an indirect opportunity for your parents to exercise their bodies at low intensity, particularly if they struggle to find suitable exercises for their physical capacity.
Any form of volunteering is a perfect occasion for your parents to get up and move. Whether your parents serve meals at a shelter, clean up the park, or stock up at a food bank, it is still better than lounging on their couch and watching the days go by meaninglessly. Maintaining regular physical activity helps your parents fend off illnesses, keep their weight under control, feel younger, and live a more fulfilling life.
Ward Off Depression
Seniors withdrawing from society and experiencing prolonged periods of solitude are more likely to develop depression.
A handful of studies and surveys have pointed out the correlation between volunteering and a fall in depression. Around 71% of volunteers in a study for charity Community Service Volunteers (CSV) reported that becoming a part of a wider community and giving their time, skills, and experiences to improve others’ lives helped them fight off depressive feelings.
Through volunteering in meaningful charity initiatives, your parents can ward off depression and other mental health conditions while creating lasting impacts on the communities and other lives.
Increase Social Interaction
Contributing best efforts to the community and supporting the lives of others paves the way for more social interactions and deeper relationships.
If your parents plan on retiring or moving to a smaller house, encourage them to lend a helping hand at charity events or social activities. It is an excellent chance to mingle with new neighbors and make new friends in their new neighborhood.
While working towards the same goals, your parents can step out of their shells and share their unique ideas on improving the community and upgrading the lives of people from less privileged backgrounds.
Prevent Loneliness and Isolation
Feeling lonely and isolated is a widespread issue among seniors. It has been found that lonesome seniors are more vulnerable to developing severe mental and physical health conditions.
The good news is that older adults who regularly volunteer experience greater contentment and lower mental distress and depressive feelings than those who don’t (according to the National Library of Medicine).
Encourage your parents to venture out and spend more time in community services to combat these feelings and enhance their overall well-being.
Learn Something New
Believe it or not, giving to others is a way of returning a favor to yourself! Numerous on-site charity events and relief programs allow everyone to develop new skills and become knowledgeable about things they have always wanted to explore — all for free!
For example, volunteering at local animal shelters allows your parents to gain more insights into animal behaviors and learn how to give care professionally. Let’s say your dad is passionate about construction. You can sign him up for home-building relief programs for low-income families. These activities are highly beneficial for your parents to pick up new skills and connect with wise individuals while giving their best to the community.
Reignite Old Interests
Aside from expanding knowledge, joining community groups can do wonders when it comes to reigniting interests and hobbies that your parents have forgotten over the years. For instance, if your mother misses being a teacher, she might enjoy passing on her knowledge to children with limited access to education at local youth centers.
The best part about volunteering is that you don’t have to be a master to offer guidance or share your wisdom. It means that your parents can teach on whatever topic they are passionate about, whether it is business, building, cooking, painting, gardening, or crafting. Plus, they can use this opportunity to advance their skills, optimize personal growth, and connect with people who share similar passions.
Regain a Sense of Purpose
As your parents grow older, they commonly lose interest and gradually disconnect from the world and people around them. This is because, following retirement, they tend to indulge in the newfound freedom so much that they may forget their purposes and sense of self along the way.
How to reverse this? Volunteering might just be what your parents need. Joining a hand with others boosts seniors’ sense of self, belonging, and purpose. As each organization is tailor-made for specific causes and goals, groups of individuals can share the same values when giving forward. Regaining life’s purposes also motivates your parents to continue positively changing their communities and unfortunate individuals.
How to Get Seniors Involved in Volunteering
Are your parents and seniors considering contributing to the community and helping others? Here are some considerations and tips you can take to get your parents started volunteering as a senior:
- Identify your parents’ interests — nothing’s more fulfilling than giving back to the community with passions and skills that you love. Talk with your parents to discuss and figure out what kinds of activities they would like to lend a hand.
- Don’t forget to start small — before thinking big, make little things count. When volunteering, remind your parents that small actions can bring powerful impacts that help transform the world. Start seeking volunteer opportunities close to their homes, such as local charities, schools, youth centers, or senior centers.
- Find volunteering activities and organizations matching your parents’ interests and skills — let’s say your parents love getting creative in the kitchen and trying new recipes. Meals on Wheels is the perfect place for bringing tasty and nutrient-dense meals closer to seniors who can no longer cook for themselves. If your parents have years of experience in specific expertise, why not encourage them to continue passing their knowledge and mentoring young talents in the community?
- Offer extra support and tools — extra support, especially from you, makes your parents’ experiences more accessible. Since your parents will likely experience mobility challenges, back them up by offering transportation, organizing their schedule, and providing assistive devices.
Here is a list of meaningful volunteering opportunities that your parents can try:
- Habitat for Humanity
- Senior Corps
- Meals on Wheels
- Feeding America
- The Alzheimer’s Association
- Local, state, and national parks
- Animal shelters
- Community gardens
- Local schools and training communities
- Foster grandparent programs
Giving Back to the Community with 12 Oaks Communities
Aging brings many mental and physical health risks for seniors. However, volunteering is a beneficial pursuit that allows seniors to achieve more contentment and gain a stronger sense of self while giving back to the community and people in need.
We offer a variety of volunteering activities and opportunities that help your seniors start contributing their best to the community and accomplishing their goals in supporting less fortunate people.
If you have questions about volunteering for the elderly or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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