Volunteering as a Senior Citizen: Opportunities, Benefits and Avoiding Burnout
Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on November 22, 2017
Volunteering as a Senior Citizen: Opportunities, Benefits & Avoiding Burnout
Offering volunteer services to various businesses, organizations and events in your community can be a great way to use your time and talents during your retirement years. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, groups ranging in age from 65-74 and 75 and older have the highest median hours of volunteer participation.
Wanting to volunteer but not sure where to begin? Check out some common volunteer opportunities and benefits below.
If you’re not sure where you want to volunteer, start with making a list of things you’re good at and things you enjoy doing (like hobbies). Think about what you did for work prior to retirement—there are likely opportunities in your community that could use your unique skillset. Of course, also consider possible limitations; for instance, if you are sensitive to the smells and sights of a hospital, avoid offering services at that kind of location.
Here are some ideas to help you begin your search for volunteer opportunities:
- Start with a simple online search. VolunteerMatch (https://www.volunteermatch.org/) has a free sign up form and easy-to-use search function that allows you to filter by area of interest (advocacy and human rights, animal rights, education and literacy, children and youth, homeless and housing, and more). This site also lists virtual options—if your ability to travel is limited, you can volunteer from home!
- Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or community event board; you can sign up to help with event preparation throughout the year.
- Religious Organizations have one of the highest volunteer rates among seniors. From food preparation to singing in a choir, there are many great ways to give back to your local church.
- Volunteering at hospitals helps both patients and workers. Many hospitals have child life specialist programs where you can play with children or hold infants while giving mom and dad a break. Or, you can volunteer at a VA hospital—talk with veterans and offer them company during their stay or their therapy appointments. Other common hospital-related volunteer jobs include greeting patients and guests and helping them find their way around.
- If you’re an animal lover, check out your local humane society.
- Want to explore another part of the world? Consider researching international volunteer opportunities for seniors—just make sure to research the organization thoroughly to ensure the project is making a difference in the country you’re interested in serving.
- If you have a background in healthcare, you can volunteer as a part of disaster relief efforts with the Medical Reserve Corps.
- You can also volunteer your time to help out loved ones—offer to watch your grandchildren one afternoon a week or help with school activities.
After a storm, countless amount of starfish were spread for miles across a beach. A man watched as a little boy started throwing starfish one by one back into the ocean. The man approached the boy and asked him what he was doing. The little boy said, “I’m throwing the star fish back into the ocean because they will die if I do not help.” The man stated that “There are thousands and thousands of starfish, you cannot possibly begin to make a difference”. The little boy picked up another star fish and threw it out into the ocean, smiled and said, “I made a difference in that one!” (adapted from The Star Thrower, Loren Eisley)
A single volunteer cannot help the entire world, but they can make a difference in the lives of the people that surround them. Benefits for volunteering as a senior include the following:
- Seniors who volunteer, on average, live longer and have fewer disabilities.
- Volunteering reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
- Volunteering can be a form of exercise and a part of an active lifestyle.
- Volunteering can help prevent isolation.
- Volunteering can give a new sense of purpose to seniors after retirement.
- Volunteering can bring different generations together to learn from one another.
- Offering your time and talents to other promotes emotional wellbeing.
Ways to Avoid Volunteer Burnout
When volunteering, it’s important to balance out your commitment to others and to yourself so that you become stressed about your volunteer services.
Here are some things to consider so that you consistently enjoy your volunteer commitment and avoid burnout:
- Realistically consider the amount of time you want to volunteer during the week and don’t feel obligated to go beyond that limit.
- Recruit friends to volunteer with you. Create a team so that the work is spread out over multiple people and provides a sense of social enjoyment as well as purpose.
- Ask your volunteer coordinator upfront about all the details of the project so that you know, without a doubt, what you’re signing up for.
- Take a break if you need one! If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your commitment, take a step back and reevaluate why you’re volunteering—this can help you reconnect with your purpose and remember why you love doing the work in the first place.
- Statistically, many people volunteer for one main organization but also dedicate time to another. Don’t try to take on too many opportunities at once!