Senior Living: How retired adults benefit from ‘paying it forward’

Published 3:48 pm Thursday, May 4, 2017

By Lisa Keller
Contributing writer
In Honor of National Volunteer Week:
Do you find yourself seeking purpose in your life? Perhaps you aren’t sure what to do with all the free time you have now that you’ve retired. Boredom is the theme of your day-to-day routine. Yet you open the storage closet to find your favorite instrument or craft box has collected a thick layer of dust. “There’s got to be something worthwhile to do,” you think to yourself.
All of these scenarios have underlying wants and needs, and they all have something in common; that volunteerism is the key that can free us from the feeling that we’re missing something in our lives.
This weekend, National Volunteer Week comes to a close – a time when local businesses and organizations give thanks to those who give their gifts to help make society a better place. But the benefits of volunteerism do not stop at the company or nonprofit receiving the good deed. A number of studies show that older adults gain many personal advantages when committing themselves to acts of kindness.
Generous Giving and its Benefits for Boomers
Several expert sources point to the numerous physical, mental and emotional improvements seen in senior volunteers. There are ample reasons why older adults should see giving back as not only a greater good for others, but a responsibility to better one’s well-being. Here, I’ll share the many ways volunteerism is a worthy obligation for your own self-improvement, helping to stay involved, boost one’s mood and even sharpen skills!
Connect with Community – Do you feel left out or out of the loop? Giving your time to a local organization is a great way to stay in the know about everything happening in your town. Why not volunteer at a museum or a favorite tourist attraction? It’s a great way to learn about your community while getting involved, as staying connected can greatly improve your outlook on life.
Improve Your Mood – When you’re feeling down, helping someone in need can help shift your focus to something positive and meaningful. Volunteerism is a wonderful remedy for seniors who are needing a pick-me-up. Pitching in and doing your part can help one feel a sense of belonging in society, and that alone can boost one’s mood! After all, you do matter. One act of kindness is all it takes for someone to feel like they’ve made a difference.
Sharpen Old Skills – Someone one out there is looking for a mentor, and maybe that mentor is you! Take your favorite hobbies and pastimes and turn them into teaching opportunities at a local school, senior center or summer camp. Not only are you passing down your skills to the next generation, you’ll also stay active and this has great benefits for cognition and memory.
Where You Can “Make Your Mark”
So you’ve decided to make your mark. But knowing where to start can be tricky. Here are a few tips to help you navigate volunteer opportunities.
– Health care centers are always looking for helping hands and kind hearts. Share snacks with nurses working evening and night shifts, or spread joy by delivering flowers and greeting cards to patients. When in doubt, an associate can tell you what their patients and associates need.
–  Spend time at your local senior living, personal care and memory care community. There are always opportunities to help out other older adults who need engagement and interaction with others.
–  Visit your former grade school, college, university or trade center. Whether you’re a former student, teacher or principal, everyone will be charmed to be in your company.
These are just a few of the endless ways volunteerism can help seniors find joy in their day-to-day lives. While many focus on how acts of kindness benefits others, never forget how giving back can do so much for you, too! What will you do today?

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