On any given day, you’ll likely see 78-year-old Ernest Bradbury buzzing around his community of Lubbock, Texas, off to visit the dying in his job as a hospice volunteer. He has helped an estimated 46 hospice patients in the past 11 years, and began volunteering to fill a void after his wife died.
“The key to this volunteering job is to listen, listen, listen,” said the former city employee who has been recognized locally for his hospice work. “I have to soften some up before they will talk. They’re usually lying around with nothing to do. If I can get them to talk it makes them feel better. Then I feel better, too.”
Older volunteers are finding ways to use their lifetime of skills and experience to make an impact on issues they care about. Whether they serve every day or a few times a year, older volunteers contribute to the health and vitality of their communities. The availability of more time now in their lives is just one of the reasons many volunteer.
Volunteering provides many older adults with a purpose. That purpose can help sustain a healthier lifestyle that includes increased physical, mental and social activity. There is a sense of well-being that seniors get from volunteering and it offers huge health benefits. Because senior volunteers are more connected with their community, the health benefits associated with volunteering are a means to combat isolation, loneliness and depression.
10 Great reasons to become a senior volunteer:
- Volunteerism is essential to the United States – especially during these times of financial crisis
- The American work industry still needs seniors – experienced and knowledgeable seniors can save organizations money
- Senior volunteers help bridge the generation gap – when seniors collaborate with young people, there is reciprocal learning and a better understanding of each other
- Senior volunteers can choose to do meaningful work – they have the opportunity to choose work they find important and exciting
- Volunteering helps seniors maintain mental well-being – seniors who volunteer in social programs maintain good brain function
- Volunteering helps seniors maintain physical health – productive activities may slow down the aging process for seniors
- Volunteering helps seniors stay involved in their communities – it helps seniors overcome depression and increases their social and support networks
- Volunteering is rewarding – giving to others can help combat depression because giving makes us feel vibrant, important and satisfied. Volunteering reduces stress and increases happiness
- Volunteering adds years to seniors’ lives – seniors who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not
- Senior volunteers can work around their own schedules
- Resources like senior programs make volunteering easy – Several organizations offer a variety of volunteer opportunities
Seniors interested in volunteering can contact the Senior Corps, Chamber of Commerce, Senior Centers, Shelters, Libraries, Schools and Churches or Faith Communities. RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) offers a variety of volunteer opportunities in thousands of organizations and proactively work with seniors to determine which organizations are right for them.