Uncategorized: Senior volunteers benefit their communities, themselves
Senior volunteers benefit their communities, themselves
Story: Karen J. Kraemer and Sheryl Bautch
One of the strongest forces of volunteerism in America is our older adults. Senior volunteers share a wealth of experience, abilities and skills to address a wide variety of community needs including hunger, homelessness, child abuse, illiteracy and so much more. Collectively, senior volunteers nationwide provide hundreds of thousands of hours of service each year to their local schools, libraries, museums, government and nonprofit agencies.
Senior volunteers benefit not only their communities but themselves as well. Studies have shown that seniors are happier and healthier and experience less depression and anxiety if they remain active and involved in their community. Volunteering reduces social isolation and can provide a sense of purpose and self-esteem that we sometimes lose when we retire or when we no longer have a family to care for. In the past, both nuclear and extended family members often lived in close proximity to each other their whole lives. But today our society is much more mobile, and many seniors do not live near their children or other family members. One senior volunteer said, “Without family in the area, volunteering justifies my existence and makes me feel as if I have a value in this world.” Another senior volunteer shared this story: “I always worked a lot; I often held two jobs. I kept that pace until it started costing me my health and the doctor told me I had to quit. I spent two years in a funk with nothing important to do. Then I started volunteering. I’ve found it’s saving my life as much as it’s helping others.” Another “young at heart” volunteer put it this way: “I am slowing down a little, as I am 80 years of age. My health is good, but I want to keep it that way. I think volunteering keeps you younger.”
Are you an older adult who would like to get involved with volunteering but aren’t sure where to start? Many communities in east central Illinois have a Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) that supports volunteers age 55 and better. RSVP is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Senior Corps and is one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation. You can use the skills and talents you’ve learned over the years or develop new ones while serving in a variety of volunteer activities within your community. By working with hundreds of community organizations, RSVP can find the perfect volunteer job for you, whatever your interest and abilities. The program also provides benefits to its members such as supplemental insurance and lots of recognition. To find out if there is an RSVP program serving your community, go to https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps/get-involved or call Family Service RSVP (serving Champaign, Douglas and Piatt counties) at 217-359-6500. Other resources in your community with information about volunteer opportunities may include your local United Way, faith community or library. Or contact any local nonprofit organization whose mission matches your passion. Chances are good they will welcome your help!
Karen J. Kraemer is the Director of Family Service RSVP and Stevick Senior Center in Champaign. Sheryl Bautch is the Executive Director of Family Service of Champaign County.