Reasons You Should Volunteer and How to Get Started

Giving back to your community and donating your time to help others has multiple benefits, especially as you age. It keeps you physically active, engages your mind, enables you to meet new people, and even teaches you new skills.

To help you get started, here’s a look at some reasons why you should volunteer and some popular opportunities to lend a hand.

Volunteers Make a Positive Difference

Charities and public organizations alike count on volunteers to support the many causes they represent. As of 2016, there were about 1.54 million nonprofits registered with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), per a 2019 National Center for Charitable Statistics brief. In 2017, around 25.1% of American adults volunteered—and collectively contributed an amazing 8.8 billion hours of their time.

Whether you pack food at a local food bank, serve meals at a shelter, visit elderly residents at a nursing home, or donate time to national organizations like the United Way, Red Cross, or Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, every action you take in the hours you give makes a positive difference in your community and beyond.

It Engages Your Mind

Engaging your mind plays a vital role in healthy aging. In fact, the National Institute on Aging reports that staying socially active and productive by doing things like volunteering in your community can help with your overall well-being and might even lower the risk of dementia.

Plus, many volunteer efforts provide an opportunity to learn new skills. Any time you learn a task, you’re giving your brain a workout. A study published in Psychological Science found that adults ages 60-90 showed memory improvement after learning a new “complex skill” over three months.

It Boosts Your Mood

Doing meaningful activities via volunteering strengthens your mind and boosts your mood. Helping others and being productive can generate happiness and a sense of pride and accomplishment. Socializing and interacting with people can also curb loneliness, isolation, and depression.

It Provides Daily Structure and Purpose

Sometimes days seem to stretch forever when you’re retired, live alone, or don’t spend a lot of time with others. Volunteering gives days more structure in a similar way as working or attending school. Maybe you’ll spend two hours, three times a week at an animal rescue center. Or, perhaps you’ll deliver meals to homebound people every evening.

Overall, maintaining a schedule adds anticipation, continuity, and satisfaction to your days. Seeing the smiles, comfort, and other results your efforts generate also gives you a sense of purpose.

Photo: Getty Images

It Increases Physical Activity

Staying physically active as you age is an essential part of maintaining good health. Getting out to lend a hand in the community keeps you moving, which is good for your muscles, bones, and heart, among others. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise and physical activity can help prevent hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and more. Serving meals at a soup kitchen, pitching in at a park cleanup, or tutoring at a local school are great examples.

It Builds New Relationships

Volunteering connects people and presents an opportunity to build new relationships. You can never have enough friends. The rapport you build with the people you meet in your community service endeavors can forge meaningful friendships and valuable social relationships in a wonderful, reciprocal way.

Volunteering Ideas

The internet is an invaluable tool in finding volunteer options. Doing a Google search for “volunteering opportunities near me” should turn up lots of results.

You can also try to match your volunteer efforts with your interests. For example, if you love animals, contact local animal shelters, a nearby zoo, or a veterinary clinic to see if they need volunteers. If you love to cook, volunteer to prepare meals at a shelter or soup kitchen. If you love children, consider volunteering for story-hour at preschools or the local library. Maybe you run errands, be a companion, or drive an elderly neighbor to doctor’s appointments.

Some national nonprofits might have local chapters near you. Here are a few popular charitable organizations that welcome volunteers:

Overall, the time you give and the rewards and benefits you receive volunteering is a win-win for you and the organizations and people you serve.

The Active Aging Series is brought to you by our partner, Cambrian Homecare. Cambrian Homecare has been assisting individuals to stay independent in their homes for 25 years. Flexible experience you can trust, when the best place is still at home. Click here to see all of Cambrian’s informative articles.

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