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3 Ways Older Adults Can Pay It Forward Through Volunteering

How 55+ adults redefine aging through community connection

spinner image a man and women delivering a bag of food to a woman's home
Photo credit: AmeriCorps Seniors

You have earned many titles throughout your life: parent, grandparent, friend. Maybe you found your passion as a teacher, athlete, artist, world traveler, or writer. Perhaps others think of you as a helper, leader, or activist.

One of the beautiful aspects of aging is the opportunity to forge new paths and adopt new titles. An increasing number of older Americans are embracing change, pushing boundaries, and transforming their communities through creativity, commitment, and service by adding “volunteer” to their life stories.

Volunteering is one of the ways older adults can improve their mental and physical health because it builds connections with others. 84% of volunteers report stable or improving health after one year of service, and 88% report lower levels of feelings of isolation, according to a study conducted by AmeriCorps Seniors1.

Here are some wonderful ways you can get involved in your community.

spinner image man sitting next to a young teen boy as he writes in a notebook in a classroom
Photo credit: AmeriCorps Seniors

Respond to Local Needs

There are plenty of people and organizations in your community who can benefit from your skills and abilities. From building houses to delivering food, volunteer opportunities often offer flexible hours to match your schedule. So you can work when you want, for the number of hours that are ideal for you, doing things you love. Handy with a hammer? There is likely a construction or renovation project in your area that could use your expertise. And if you have a heart for wounded veterans, there are numerous opportunities for you to serve those who have served our country.

“All the people you meet when you’re a volunteer tell you their stories and experiences,” said Srini Srinivas, a senior volunteer who loves to serve. “You find that very rewarding and it enriches your life. Doing this service is a way of paying it forward. It supports the community. It keeps me active, which is a good thing. You also feel useful.”

Serve as Mentors

For older adults interested in working with children, there are programs that pair volunteers with local schools and other child-focused organizations. These opportunities can include caring for and working with whole classes, smaller groups, or individual students. So, if you love kids and they love you, consider lending a hand in a nearby school or child community center. You can put your writing skills to work by guiding high school students through the challenging process of completing college essays and applications.

“My motto is, ‘There is never a never. You can always accomplish something.’ I’m here to help the kids learn, be there for them and teach them as much as I can,” says volunteer Priscilla Tsethlikai. “They’re teaching me, and at the same time, I’m teaching them.”

Provide a Helping Hand to Other Older Adults

Fostering relationships with other older adults is another rewarding and greatly needed option. As a volunteer with seniors, you could brighten a lonely person’s day by spending time with them, offering companionship. You can help those who have difficulty with daily tasks like bill paying, grocery shopping, or getting to various appointments. And we all know caregivers need a break. As a volunteer working with seniors, you can provide respite to family members caring for a loved one with a chronic illness.

“Volunteering has changed me. It keeps me grounded,” volunteer Carmen Swanson said. “When you help others and do for others, you enrich your life. My favorite part is being available and of service to them. Whatever their desire is, whatever they’d like to achieve — if I can execute the task, follow it through and accomplish it, then it makes my day.”

Taking Action Is Easy

As a first stop for anyone looking to explore volunteer opportunities, AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors connect individuals and organizations through service and volunteering. They match Americans 55+ with opportunities to improve their communities by giving their time, passion, skills, and experience. More than 140,000 Americans are matched with volunteer opportunities through three programs: RSVP, the Foster Grandparent Program, and the Senior Companion Program.

AmeriCorps offers varying levels of involvement, interaction, time commitments, and work with a diverse set of volunteer organizations. There’s likely a good fit for everyone who is interested in volunteering. Plus, it’s a chance to meet like-minded peers who share your interests. All volunteers share a goal of making a difference in their communities. They also find volunteering leads them to make new friends and form meaningful connections.

While it may mean different things to different people, taking charge of your “second act” conjures up one overarching sentiment: Growing older can and should be empowering.

“By choosing to volunteer with AmeriCorps Seniors, you’re making a difference in your community and changing lives, but you’re also helping to break stereotypes and shift the way younger generations view older adults,” said Atalaya Sergi, Director, AmeriCorps Seniors. “So many people can benefit when you stay engaged and involved.”

Are you ready to get involved, give back, and feel empowered?

Click here to find AmeriCorps Seniors volunteer opportunities near you, or call 1-800-942-2677.



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