This year marks the 50th anniversary of May as Older Americans Month. “Unleash the Power of Age” has been selected as the theme emphasizing the important role of older adults.
“The Power of Age” refers to all the skills, knowledge, resources and energy older people have to share. Older New Yorkers volunteer more hours than any other age group, making a $1.3 billion economic impact. Volunteers are an important piece of many community organizations’ plans to help others.
Most who volunteer recognize that volunteering makes them feel better and research has shown that there is a direct link between volunteering and mental and physical health benefits for older adults. So, what are the benefits of volunteering?
Volunteering connects you to others. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people. It can strengthen your ties to the community and broaden your support network by connecting you with people with common interests, as well as creating a closer connection to neighborhood resources.
Volunteering is good for your mind and your body. People who volunteer report greater life satisfaction and increases in self-esteem. Doing good for others and the community can give you a sense of pride, identity and accomplishment. This can be particularly valuable for those entering retirement or if you are looking for some more meaningful activities in your life. The connections made through volunteer activities also reduce social isolation, lessening your risk for depression.
People who volunteer at least 100 hours a year also have better physical health. Individuals with chronic pain experience a decline in their pain intensity and people who volunteer live longer than those who don’t.
Volunteering can help with career goals. Volunteer activities can help you gain experience in a new field or hone your skills. It can provide opportunities to make new connections or try a new field before you make a big change. It can offer a means to get back into the job market for those who decide early retirement is not for them.