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A work free retirement sounds blissful after decades of a working life, but while it might sound extremely enticing to spend your senior years having no plans and no tasks to get done, a lack of purpose can soon become frustrating as well as lonely. From lowering stress levels, to boosting self-confidence and a sense of purpose, volunteering offers a number of health benefits, especially for senior adults.
Not only does it help you fill your days with some activity when you stop working, but also allows you the chance to give back to a charity or organisation close to your heart. Here’s why volunteering can not only help others, but also you.
Your social scene can take a dive when retirement begins. But retirement doesn’t have to mean your interaction with others stops entirely. This is often when feelings of loneliness and depression can set in. A 2005 study entitled ‘The Effects of Volunteering on the Physical and Mental Health of Older People’ found that those over the age of 70, who volunteered a minimum of 100 hours within a one year period showed a decrease in depression levels.
In terms of daily hours, this equates to a mere 3.6 hours per day. This is in fact a small percentage of your day that could help you get out, meet and chat to new people while having a positive impact on others. Socialising with like-minded people whose company you enjoy is likely to release those endorphins and make you a happier person. Don’t let retirement lead to isolation!
Exercise is an important part of staying fit and healthy well into your senior years. And while it shouldn’t have only started once you hit your retirement years, now’s your chance to make it a regular part of your week, and volunteering is one of the best ways to do so.
According to research on the risk of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure in older adults, those who volunteered a minimum of 200 hours within a year were less likely to develop hypertension than those who didn’t volunteer. Volunteering at least 200 hours was also associated with greater increases in physical activity compared with non volunteers, which explains the decreased risk of hypertension developing. While hypertension was still a risk amongst the volunteers, their risk was lowered.
Purpose can become a big sore point for those on the brink of retirement. No longer having a day job that justifies getting up early and getting ready to take on the day can have a negative effect on your sense of purpose in life. See retirement as a new phase of your life, not an end to all things fun and challenging. According to a 2013 study by United Health Group, 96% of respondents felt that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life.
How so? Well for a start, they could see that the volunteer work they were doing was helping make their community a better place, and assisting those in need motivated their sense of purpose, which in turn helped to create a better sense of wellbeing.
So whether you’re fit and healthy enough to walk dogs at your local animal shelter, or able to knit blankets and clothes for the homeless from the comfort of your aged care residence, there are numerous ways to get into volunteering and help you increase your social interaction, daily exercise as well as improve your sense of purpose. Volunteering can help you just as much as it can help others.
This article was written in collaboration with Aged Care Prepare
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & BeyondMay 3, 2019
Hi Kathy, I’ve enjoyed volunteering at my MIL’s aged care home as the residents really appreciate it and look forward to seeing me. However, I didn’t make it a weekly event as sometimes when you commit to something it can lose it’s pleasure and become a chore. I rather enjoy volunteering at the major events each month. It definitely brings rewards to the volunteers because you know you have made someone’s day.
KathyMay 3, 2019
I could imagine that volunteering in an aged care home would be very rewarding Sue. You have such a lovely sweet nature that I’m sure the elderly people enjoy you being there. I have just volunteered to do some work with a charity called Baby Give Back and hope to start next month. Like you, I don’t want to commit to too much at this stage. I’ll just see how it goes and whether it fits in around the rest of my timetable.
DebbieMay 3, 2019
I agree with this Kathy! Volunteering is so important to our physical and mental health. I am involved in Rotary and love meeting others and working with youth on various projects like Youth Exchange helps keep me young!
KathyMay 4, 2019
I’ve actually attended a couple of Rotary meetings and a couple of fundraisers, but found it too time consuming at that point in time (as I was still working). They are a great organisation that does brilliant work in the community. I hope to start some voluntary work soon now that I’m retiring.
Candi RandolphMay 4, 2019
You make some great points about volunteering, Kathy! It really is good for everyone involved.
KathyMay 4, 2019
I agree totally. It does make you feel good about yourself to help others that are less fortunate.