Volunteering and the Elderly: Seniors Helping Seniors

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Senior volunteerism isn’t just beneficial for those being helped – research shows that volunteering confers mental and physical benefits for those doing the helping. It also fosters positive social and family relationships and contributes to a positive image of  as a healthy and vital part of our society. Senior volunteers are a great asset to their communities. They possess the experience, expertise and time that can greatly benefit any organisation or cause. Seniors have a unique set of skills and knowledge to offer as volunteers: a lifetime of experience that can help others in a myriad of ways, from mentoring and tutoring younger generations to providing career guidance, to offering companionship and care. Whether seniors help deliver a hot meal to a homebound older person, to a primary school child or help out at their local community, it is a win-win situation for all parties involved. Rita tells us the various benefits of the elders’ volunteering, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Mrs. Roy is almost 65, recently bereaved, with an adult, employed son. After having lost her husband around the same time she retired, Mrs. Roy refused to stay home and mope. She called me one day, having heard about Arogya HomeCare (www.arogyahomecare.in) from a friend, and offered to volunteer her time to help with the care of our geriatric patients. I was pleasantly surprised, for volunteering is not something Indian seniors opt for on a regular basis. Unlike the US and some European countries, the elderly population in India usually prefer to stay home and lead sedentary lives, devoid of much social and intellectual stimulation. With their having left the nest, many seniors feel the dearth of meaning and focus in their lives. They miss that elusive ‘something’ that inspires them to live happy fulfilling lives. This can lead to many seniors feeling useless, unwanted and unloved, plunging them into depression and negativity. This is where volunteering can help.

Post-Retirement Blues

Retiring from a job can feel like the end of the most and productive phase of one’s life. While some seniors look forward to retirement as a time to take things slow and easy, without giving up on their normal lifestyle, the sudden lack of routine for many who have been following a regular routine for the most part of their lives can cause more harm than good. After a few days of relaxation, the forced leisure and lack of social and intellectual interaction can lead to diminished physical fitness and cognitive functioning.

Volunteering: Game Changer for Seniors

Retirement can afford seniors the chance to work on a project or issue that is important to them – simply for the of it, rather than for a paycheck. Senior volunteerism isn’t just beneficial for those being helped – research shows that volunteering confers mental and physical health benefits for those doing the helping. It also fosters positive social and family relationships and contributes to a positive image of seniors as a healthy and vital part of our society.

Senior volunteers are a great asset to their communities. They possess the experience, expertise and time that can greatly benefit any organisation or cause. Seniors have a unique set of skills and knowledge to offer as volunteers: a lifetime of experience that can help others in a myriad of ways, from mentoring and tutoring younger generations to providing career guidance, to offering companionship and care. Whether seniors help deliver a hot meal to a homebound older person, read to a primary school child or help out at their local community, it is a win-win situation for all parties involved. What’s more, the simple pleasures of helping and interacting with others bring about meaningful improvements in the mental and physical health of seniors.

Six Reasons Seniors should Volunteer

In addition to giving older people meaning and purpose to their lives, volunteering also offers specific benefits:

1. It promotes healthy physical activity. Volunteering can be good for keeping the body active. Seniors who engage in physical activity have lower incidences of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases.

2. It is good for mental health and can help prevent Alzheimer’s.  Volunteering helps one learn new skills and increases ones cognitive and mental by keeping the brain positively engaged. This helps protect the memory as people age. Studies have shown that participating in social activities and meaningful, productive activities such as volunteering may increase longevity and lower the risk of health problems in seniors, including Alzheimer’s and .

3. It helps prevent senior isolation and depression. In addition to getting seniors out of the house and into the community, volunteering has a positive effect on psychological wellness. Studies show that those who volunteer experience greater life satisfaction, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, more stress resilience, and lower rates of depression.

4. It helps bridge the generation gap. Young people are often encouraged to volunteer as a way to broaden their horizons, improve their college prospects, build their resumes and help others while doing it. Seniors who volunteer have a unique opportunity to work with and assist younger generations, thereby learning from them and getting to know of new, innovative ideas.

5. It helps change the perception about older adults. By using their talents and skills out in the world in a variety of ways, seniors demonstrate that they are active, involved and an essential part of a healthy community.

6. Volunteering helps seniors to do something positive for the community. One does not have to look for specific senior-friendly programs to make a volunteer experience meaningful. There are a myriad of opportunities and one merely needs to look around for the causes they identify with and care most about to craft a meaningful and rewarding life.

Source: http://www.aplaceformom.com

©Rita Bhattacharjee

Photos from the internet.

Rita Bhattacharjee

Rita Bhattacharjee

Rita Bhattacharjee is a communications consultant with extensive experience in managing corporate and internal communications for companies across diverse industries, including non-profit organizations. She is the co-founder of Mission Arogya and Arogya HomeCare and has recently relocated from the US to India to channel her skills towards social entrepreneurship to increase awareness and reduce disparity in public health.She also writes poetry, some of which have been published in reputed international journals.
Rita Bhattacharjee

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