The Benefits of Volunteering with Older Adults
Finding time to volunteer can be difficult in today’s busy society, but the benefits are profound. If you’re thinking about volunteering but don’t know where to begin, consider your local senior living community or senior center.
In addition to giving, you have plenty to gain. Let’s take a closer look at how volunteering with seniors can make an important difference -- not just in the lives of others and in your community, but also in your own life.
Senior face many challenges brought on by the aging process -- from physical limitations to changes in cognitive function. But they also still have a lot to share. Volunteering with older adults offers a critical opportunity to learn while making a valuable personal connection.
If you’re holding back from volunteering with seniors because you’re concerned about what to expect, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Loneliness - One of the most common problems faced by many seniors is loneliness. Older adults are often just looking for companionship, especially when their family members are separated from them by geography or time constraints.
As a volunteer, you may be asked to simply sit and visit, listen to stories, or engage in a simple craft or board game. Playing a game of cards, going for a walk, assisting with a gardening project, or facilitating a baking activity can not only encourage conversation and relationship- building, but can also bring back fond memories and create new ones.
A Desire to Learn - A common misconception is that aging adults have lost a desire to learn new things. For some, this may be true, but for many seniors, nothing could be further from the truth! For example, many older adults are fascinated by technology and would love to learn more. If you’re savvy with technology, you can help a curious senior learn more about using a computer or tablet.
In doing so, you're not only teaching a skill, but fostering the ability to feel connected to the changing world. Perhaps you can even help them connect with family members through email, Facetime, or Sykpe services. Teaching any new skill, whether it be a game of Wii Bowling, a Sudoku puzzle, or a yoga class, can provide great opportunities for keeping an aging adult’s body, mind, and spirit active and engaged.
Endless Opportunities - A few ways to volunteer with older adults include: providing transportation, delivering meals, offering musical performances, facilitating activities, acting as an escort, providing housekeeping or personal care services (such as organizing a closet or giving a manicure) , as well as providing many other essential support services (think: assistance with tax preparation or personal shopping). Think about something you enjoy doing and then share that interest, hobby, skill, or passion with a senior!
The odds are high that there’s someone in your own community who needs help -- whether it means stopping by once a week to check in, performing a few chores around the house, or driving him/her to an appointment or the grocery store.
Organizations like the AARP and National Association of Area Agencies on Aging connect people with volunteering opportunities in their areas. Or, you can simply stop in at a local retirement community to learn more about its programs for volunteers.
While work and personal commitments are significant in today's busy world, so is the opportunity to make a difference by volunteering your time and talents to help older adults in need. Not only do seniors derive many benefits from the experience, but you will too!
Older adults are a quickly growing demographic, and many volunteering opportunities exist to serve them.
Many seniors simply need the connection that comes from relationships; others benefit from support services, including meal delivery, transportation and others.
Service to seniors doesn't just benefit older adults, but also the people who share their stories, experiences and friendship.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.