Senior citizen Marilyn Hust of Imperial is a multitasking volunteer in the community. Here she is volunteering as front desk receptionist at the Imperial Community Center. — Johnson Publications
Retirees gain greater purpose in life through volunteerism
America is one of the most generous nations in the world.
According to a 2015 article in U.S. News & World Report, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development found that 60 percent of Americans regularly engage in some kind of charitable activity, compared to an average of about 40 percent for other developed countries.
Merrill Lynch and Age Wave conducted a study that ascertained that Americans offered almost 8 billion hours volunteering for charitable causes from church activities to political organizations to helping out neighbors and strangers.
Benefits of volunteering
Volunteering has its social, mental and physical benefits for people of all ages. But these benefits truly reveal themselves for retired folks.
Retired volunteers live longer because of a culmination of a number of things.
Retirees who are active in charities have a stronger sense of purpose and higher self-esteem.
Volunteering can pull older people out of isolation, even if it’s only for a few hours a week.
Staying active and engaged in the community can lessen the likelihood of seniors developing illness, help lower blood pressure and play a part in lowering mortality rates.
Cognitive function is improved by staying active and involved since volunteering provides opportunities to keep a flow of conversation going and stimulate the brain.
Volunteers also have lower rates of depression.
Physical activity is important for all ages but vital for an elderly person.
Less than one-third of people between 65 and 74 are physically active, and that number is cut in half for those over 75, according to the University of Southern California’s School of Gerontology.
Inactivity as you age can promote the advancement of heart issues, bone loss, joint pain, weight gain and a slew of other health issues.
Getting out and volunteering can help combat these issues.
Retirement is a great time to give back
While Americans of all ages and races contribute their money and time, retirees are the ones who reach out the most.
There are a number of reasons for that.
Retirees have almost twice as much free time as working parents, and they are looking for something to do with their extra time, as stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While retirees make up a little less than a third of the population, they account for 45 percent of all volunteering hours, claims Merrill Lynch.
Older citizens often find volunteering very fulfilling.
Donating both time and money rewards them with a greater purpose in life. Giving back to society means they are making a difference in the lives of others.
Many retired volunteers report that helping others brings them more happiness than spending money on themselves.
Retirement is an exciting and freeing time, but retirees may struggle to find things to fill up their time.
Volunteering can help get people out of the house and keep social engagements alive while making new friends and learning new skills. It gives people something to look forward to.
What can I do?
Senior citizens are an important part of the volunteer community, with millions of seniors donating their time to make a difference each year.
Spending time with kids is a great way to engage with a younger generation.
Youth camps can always use volunteers. You can become a mentor to a young person simply by being around them, telling them stories and teaching them about life.
The TeamMates program in Imperial is a great example of volunteers dedicating 45 minutes each week to a student they are matched with.
Reading to children at school or the local library is another interactive activity that benefits children and seniors alike.
Court Appointed Special Advocates for children is a network of community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities. For many abused children, a CASA volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives.
Becoming a host family to an international high school exchange student can bring a new perspective to your life. To volunteer for this program, visit the link www.iseusa.com/ready-host-student.cfm.
For those looking to connect with someone their own age, consider becoming a senior companion helping others remain independent as they age. Many residents of assisted living facilities love to spend time with people in their age group.
Meals on Wheels is a volunteer program where meals are delivered daily to the senior population living at home to help prevent hunger and malnutrition.
One of our own
There are many places within our own communities in which senior volunteers are welcome and needed.
One of those places is the Imperial Community Center.
The center has many volunteers who regularly help with different activities and functions.
Marilyn Hust of Imperial is 81 years young and has been a volunteer for over eight years.
When not going to games to watch her great-grandchildren or having coffee dates with her friends, she is donating her time to help others.
“It makes me feel good to know I’m helping people. If you stay home all the time, you can become depressed,” Hust said.
The community center has a number of activities at which senior citizens volunteer, said Laura Barton, activities director.
“Some of them are the center’s thrift shop, front desk reception, delivering meals to people at home and setting up for noon meals,” she said.
Hust devotes several hours each week as a volunteer.
“I cover front desk reception one day a week, deliver Meals on Wheels another day, help in the thrift shop occasionally, and sometimes help set up for the noon meal and monthly Sunday dinner,” she said.
She said there are other activities led by senior volunteers that she attends, like bingo.
“They have an exercise class, too, but I don’t attend that. I do my exercises at home when I first get up,” she added with a smile.
Hust takes time to help out people by driving them to their appointments.
“I like to be busy,” she said.
She shared how much she likes delivering noon meals to people at home.
“They are so appreciative to get a home-cooked meal. They also like that I take the time to visit with them,” Hust said.
She said she would like to see more volunteers at the center — there’s plenty to do.
Hust doesn’t limit her volunteering at just the community center. She is a regular volunteer at her church with evangelism and missions. She is also the chairman of the Methodist Ladies Circle, she said.
“Helping people gives me a wonderful feeling. But we [volunteers] gain so much more from the people we help. They lift us up,” said Hust.
Skilled volunteering is particularly valuable to low-income families or seniors.
Volunteer attorneys can defend the rights of minorities and represent battered spouses in domestic abuse cases, as well as filling a legal role for nonprofit organizations.
The same holds true for preparing taxes for low-income families and senior citizens on a fixed budget.
Other ways to serve
Baby boomers are no strangers to activism.
Retired volunteers may feel right at home offering their help during political campaigns.
They may be put to work knocking on doors, calling voters, circulating petitions, or speaking for or against certain issues.
Voting precincts always need volunteers when residents show up to cast their votes.
Volunteers are also needed at food banks and second-hand stores.
A vital role for volunteers to consider is serving on a board within their community. Retirees can offer their lifelong experiences and wisdom while honing their leadership skills. Volunteering on a board entails significant responsibilities while providing an opportunity to network with other nonprofit leaders in the community.
There are about 500 volunteers over the age of 50 serving in the Peace Corps. Older volunteers bring different skills and experience to the corps, said Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that builds and repairs simple, affordable housing for people who need shelter. Volunteers work together with those who have qualified to buy a Habitat for Humanity home.
Not only do these volunteers help build a house, but they get a sense of pride and community for the new homeowners and their neighborhoods. Many retired and semi-retired volunteers work with Habitat for Humanity on build sites.
Retired volunteers can also join church groups to travel to areas to build homes and help with disaster relief efforts.
Volunteers in numerous areas and skill sets are needed within our country and abroad when devastating events occur, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis and destructive forest fires, to name a few.
Elderly people may have other reasons they want to volunteer, like spending more time with grandchildren at their school, or there may be religious aspects to it.
But any reason to volunteer is a good one.