Over 18 million senior citizens in this country have already discovered the sense of purpose and accomplishment that comes from volunteering. This volunteer work comes with a hefty bonus: seniors who volunteer may actually add years to their lives!
Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered a remarkable link between volunteer work and longevity. The subjects who volunteered at least 40 hours each year to a single cause were 40 percent more likely than non-volunteers to be alive at the end of study. The trend held even when researchers took differences in the two groups' incomes, health, and number of weekly social interactions into account. Interestingly, focus seemed to be crucial. Volunteers who spread their time among several organizations didn't gain an advantage in longevity.
Volunteering in your community and sharing your wisdom and talents with others is a gratifying and meaningful way to enrich your life. In fact, older adults who regularly volunteer even a small amount of time generally have a greater sense of well-being than those who don't.
How to find volunteer opportunities?
Your church, synagogue, mosque, or local community center can be an excellent starting point. Think about what you like to do, or consider which worthwhile causes are close to your heart, and start there. Enjoy reading? Perhaps your local library needs a volunteer for their children’s story hour. Prefer bird-watching? Find out what opportunities are available at your community’s parks or nature center.
You can also find volunteer opportunities in the telephone directory under the headings "volunteer centers," "volunteer action centers," "volunteer bureau," or "United Way." Or, contact one of the national organizations that recruit older volunteers:
- Administration on Aging: http://www.aoa.gov , (202) 619-0724. The AoA enlists 500,000 volunteers nationwide, many of them senior citizens, to help older people in need. (Studies have found that senior citizen volunteers are especially effective at aiding the elderly.) Volunteer activities include delivering meals to the homebound, escorting frail seniors to needed services, repairing homes of low-income and frail seniors, assisting at senior centers, and counseling older people on health, nutrition, and finances.
- Volunteers of America: http://www.voa.org , (800) 899-0089. A non-profit organization founded in 1896, the VOA is a national, faith-based organization that provides services to millions of Americans in need.
- Senior Corps: http://www.seniorcorps.gov, (202) 606-5000. This branch of the federally funded Corporation for National and Community Service helps people 55 and over find volunteering opportunities in their community. The corps runs a foster grandparent program that helps children with special needs; a senior companion program that helps at-risk seniors live independently; and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) that provides many different services. Senior Companions and Foster Grandparents must be 60 or over and willing to work at least 15 hours each week.
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