Senior woman volunteering and packing boxes

6 Ways Seniors Can Volunteer Their Time – and Why They Should

Seniors have a plethora of experience and a lifetime of knowledge that they can use to help make the world a better place. Through volunteering efforts, seniors can make a difference in their communities, on the environment and in the lives of today’s younger generation.

Depending on your where you live, there are a variety of ways seniors can give back. “Seniors often have the wisdom, experience, time and skills that can address the key societal issues our nation is facing,” said Triste Vasquez-White, the Foster Grandparent Program Director for The Senior Source.

Volunteering offers a host of benefits including the prevention of isolation and depression. A study published by the journal The Gerontologist notes that seniors who donate their time to worthy causes increase their self-esteem, personal growth and social activity. Volunteering is a way to combat a variety of psychological alignments, too, that are common in aging adults. According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults who volunteer their time in meaningful activities feel happier and healthier. Volunteering can also help older adults cope with the death of a loved one and increases the likelihood of self-efficiency.

Helping your Fellow Man, Woman, Child and Animal

From working with kids to helping animals find a home, giving up time to help a community can be personally rewarding and beneficial to the organization. Among the organizations seniors can directly give back to in a neighborhood are.

Senior Corps: Senior Corps is a national organization that provides volunteer opportunities for those 55 and above. Senior Corps is in charge of three distinct programs: Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions and RSVP. Each focuses on different aspects of volunteering. Foster Grandparents allows seniors to mentor children and young adults, while Senior Companions focus on matching senior volunteers with at-risk seniors. RSVP encompasses multiple activities, events and objectives that seniors can volunteer for. Vasquez-White works under the Senior Corps umbrella and says her group of volunteers finds the programs to be life-sustaining and can lead to healthy aging for her seniors. To participate, visit the Senior Corps website or call 1-800-942-2677.

ASPCA and Local Animal Shelters: If you’re an animal lover, you can volunteer your time at a variety of animal organizations across the country. Groups such as ASPCA are dedicated to helping animals find new homes within their communities. Whether fostering a pet or working at a shelter, seniors find giving their time for a furry friend can be rewarding and life-changing. Who knows, you may walk away with a new best friend. To participate, visit the ASPCA website or check your local government site for information on the nearest animal shelter.

Habitat for Humanity: An independent, non-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity helps repair, maintain and build homes for families in need. Volunteers - whether senior or youth - can work in groups, join an event or volunteer their time independently to help create a home. This is a great opportunity for seniors experienced with home building and construction. Experience, however, is not required to work with Habitat for Humanity. Find your nearest Habitat for Humanity community and get details on how you can volunteer.

Giving Time for the Environment

Although the impact and reward may not be as immediate as other forms of volunteering, giving time to maintain the natural beauty of earth can be its own reward. Volunteering at parks or with organizations dedicated to helping the environment are a great way for seniors to spend some time in the outdoors. Among a few organizations always seeking help are:

National Park Service: Nature lovers and history buffs can volunteer at any of the 58 national parks within the United States. Varying from national monuments such as Mount Rushmore to picturesque landscapes like the Grand Canyon, national parks are always in need of seniors to help maintain and protect the land. Older adults can join the efforts of a volunteer event or provide their time individually. Seniors also may want to consider turning their next vacation into a national park volunteer trip. For information, visit the National Park Services Volunteer website.

U.S. Forest Service: From managing campgrounds to operating visitor centers, volunteers for the U.S. Forest Service can help maintain the various forests within the United States. The areas where people can volunteer span from local grasslands to nationally recognized forests. The U.S. Forest Service is a perfect place for seniors who are lovers of nature and hiking. For information, visit the US Forest Service volunteer website.

National Resources Conservation Service: Part of the United States Department of Agriculture, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is an organization dedicated to helping landowners, farmers and ranchers form conservation practices and efforts. The federal organization is always looking for volunteers to help in the field or in the office. Michele Brown, the National Volunteer Coordinator for the NRCS, says volunteer work can vary from assessments of water and land to working indoors and helping with operations. The organization can match a senior’s skills and desires with the programs that are available. This is a great way for seniors to help the environment and, if they desire, get their hands dirty. For information, visit the NRCS Earth Team website.

Volunteering can have immediate and long-term effects on the seniors who participate and the organizations that they assist. Vasquez-White says volunteers quickly realize how impactful the work can be.

“The benefits and impact of volunteering don’t really hit you until you’re in the moment,” she said. “Once you’re in it, you’ll realize that what you’re getting as a volunteer outweighs the time you gave.”

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