How Volunteering Adds Life to Your Years

Retirees frequently find purpose and fulfillment by turning to volunteering; here are some reasons why you might want to follow in their footsteps.

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- Posted on Feb 27, 2017

A mature woman pauses during her volunteer activities

Think you can’t find purpose and fulfillment once your working days are over? Take inspiration from Dawn Blackman and let volunteering add life to your years! We asked Melinda Larson, the associate director of volunteers at the Good Samaritan Society, to share why volunteering is good for you and how you can get the most out of your experience.

Volunteering improves overall well-being because:

It boosts mental and physical health. Studies have shown that seniors who volunteer have fewer physical limitations, lower rates of depression, better cognitive function and longer lives than non-volunteers.

It makes you happy. “Human beings are hardwired to give to others,” Larson says. “The more we give, the happier we feel.”

It helps you make new friends. Volunteering is a fun, meaningful way to expand your social circle. Larson says intergenerational volunteer work is particularly enriching. “Connecting with a younger person is life-giving for an older person, especially one who’s been isolated.”

It lets you live your faith. As Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

To find a fulfilling volunteer opportunity:

Think about your skills, interests and priorities. “Be honest about what you hope to learn and accomplish,” Larson says. Things to consider: What causes and community needs matter most to you? Would you like to volunteer for more than one group? Do you want to try something new or do something you already know how to do? Are there things you don’t want to do? Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team? Are you better behind the scenes or in a more visible role? Do you want to volunteer on-site or from home?

Try an organization you admire. Maybe it’s one that you already support. Ask if they could use your help. Even if they don’t have a volunteer program, your initiative could be the start of something great.

Get suggestions from your family, friends and clergyperson. Check your local directory of communityservice opportunities. Houses of worship and providers of senior care can always use a hand. On a national level, pointsoflight.org has a network of volunteer centers, and volunteermatch.org offers a searchable database of opportunities.

For more resources on finding fulfillment later in life, visit good-sam.com/guideposts

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