One of the greatest things to look forward to in retirement is the leisure time. On the other hand, too much free time can lead to boredom which can in turn lead to depression and loneliness. Finding comfortable, productive ways to fill your time can mean making the most of this special stage in life. Volunteering in your community is an excellent way to get out and meet new people, spend time with friends, and be a part of something bigger, all within a safe framework and realistic commitment of time and energy.
Benefits of volunteering
Volunteers are desperately needed in so many areas of community life. Volunteering – & feeling needed – should not be underestimated. Especially for seniors who were heads of households for so many years, and may be struggling with their adult children being independent, getting out and re-establishing yourself as a necessary, contributing member of society with a lot to offer can be the best medicine for the soul.
Staying busy volunteering is not only good for the community seniors choose to serve and their mental health, but it can also improve physical health and well-being. Similarly, the opportunity to socialize and meet other seniors or interact with school groups and other volunteers is a fun and healthy way to keep your mind active and mood up.
Senior veterans reaching out to current servicemen and women
A favorite volunteer activity for seniors in particular is working with military personnel. Many seniors are veterans, or were married to veterans, and relate closely to this unique volunteer experience. Current soldiers look up to veteran volunteers and there is no feeling as great as being an inspiration. If this type of opportunity speaks to you, consider getting in touch with your local branch of the USO, whose mission is to create a better quality of life for military personnel and their families in the United States and abroad. USO volunteers greet troops as they return from overseas, provide warm meals and blankets to troops on airport layovers, and so much more.
Impacting the next generation: Volunteering with youth
Other organizations, like Senior Corps Foster Grandparent program and the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization provide a framework for seniors to work with kids of all ages. Seniors are connected with high-risk youth in Head Start centers, schools and other youth facilities where they can build lasting one-on-one relationships and become invaluable mentors in these children’s lives. An alternative way to positively impact youth but without such intense, long-term emotional involvement can be through children’s hospitals that rely on volunteers for activities such as tutoring patients who are missing school during treatment, reading stories, monitoring playrooms and otherwise supporting families of sick kids.
Seniors serving seniors: Taking care of each other through healthy meals
If working with soldiers or children isn’t quite for you, you might feel more connected to working with other seniors. Being able to provide for those your own age can be empowering and a regular reminder of how much you have to be grateful for. Seniors have long served other seniors through Meals on Wheels, for example, an organization of nutrition programs devoted to preventing hunger and malnutrition among the often homebound elderly. Many of Meals on Wheels’ almost 2 million volunteers nation-wide are retirees.
However you choose to get involved, volunteering can be one of the most rewarding, positive and beneficial ways to spend your time in your Golden Years. Don’t miss out, because one day you too may need home care services and will appreciate anybody who is able to help.