Lexington Health Network

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The importance of senior volunteers to the community

It’s clear that volunteerism is a high-priority activity in America. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, one-quarter of the nation’s adults volunteered through a variety of organizations in 2013. That same organization reported that volunteerism among seniors reached a 10-year high when they contributed 3 billion hours of service to others.

Data like this indicates that when it comes to this country’s volunteer resources, seniors are definitely a major component. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that in 2014, median annual hours spent on volunteer activities reached 96 hours for those 65 and older.

The community gains from senior volunteers

Seniors possess a wealth of experience, maturity, and wisdom from which many segments of society can benefit. The younger generation can turn to older individuals for guidance in everything from careers to parenting. The workforce can garner clarity and context from a segment of the population with a long-term, panoramic view of the business world.

Senior citizens gain from volunteering

Research clearly indicates that seniors who volunteer lead healthier, fuller lives. For example, researchers at the University of Michigan identified a connection between volunteer work and longevity by surveying 1,211 adults over 65 and following up with them eight years later. Seniors who volunteered a minimum of 40 hours yearly to one cause were 40 percent more likely than non-volunteers to be alive at the end of study.

The Senior Citizens Bureau references studies showing that seniors who volunteer report having fewer disabilities. Among other things, the bureau cites a Carnegie Mellon University study of older adult volunteers who were less likely to become hypertensive than older adults who didn’t volunteer. And work by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University determined that seniors involved in a youth mentoring program “made gains in key brain regions that support cognitive abilities.”

Outlets for senior volunteering

Seniors searching for opportunities to contribute their time and talents to volunteering might want to start with RSVP, one of the largest volunteer groups in the U.S. for people age 55 and above. Participants can select where, when and how they want to volunteer. Another volunteer opportunity popular among the senior age group includes Foster Grandparents, which provides opportunities to care for young people. The Road Scholar Service for Learning makes it possible for seniors to engage in a variety of activities, from teaching to aiding in conservation and preservation projects.

Without a doubt, volunteering enriches the lives of seniors – and the communities they choose to serve.