Retirement is often seen as one of the best times in an older adult’s life. There is no pressure to wake up early for a job and you’re free to determine how you’ll spend your time. However, for some the idea of having lots of free time can be overwhelming, especially if you love to keep busy. In fact, some seniors may end up feeling isolated and depressed, without something like a job to bring a sense of purpose to their days. Being inactive also comes with the added risk for negative physical and mental health consequences.
The good news is that one of the best ways to maintain your physical and mental health during retirement is through volunteer work. There are many ways to give back to the community such as giving the gift of time, offering consultations, or passing down knowledge gained over the course of your life and career. The bonus is that volunteering also has several positive benefits for seniors, especially with improving your physical and mental health.
Volunteering provides a great opportunity to stay active with physical activity, particularly if you select a cause that requires manual labor. There is also strong research that suggests adults who volunteer over the age of 50 have a decreased risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to serious conditions like stroke or heart attacks.
In addition, according to the AARP, volunteering can also reverse the effects of cognitive and physical decline associated with aging. Even those with chronic conditions such as arthritis or asthma find their symptoms are not as debilitating when they are focused on helping others or taking care of the environment.
Mental health is equally important to our overall well-being, and volunteering has been shown to have several positive effects in this regard. Some older adults are more susceptible to anxiety or depression, while others are especially at risk for brain-related conditions such as memory loss or dementia.
By being out in the community and actively engaging with others, seniors can develop a stronger resistance to depression and reduce the number of depressive symptoms. In addition, staying involved in meaningful activities keeps the brain active as well, lowering the risk of dementia, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Another mental health benefit of volunteering is the concept of purposeful living. When we do good for others, the brain’s feel-good hormones kick in, making us feel more accomplished and connected to something bigger than ourselves. Volunteering can be such a fulfilling and rewarding experience, especially when you find a cause or organization that is meaningful to you.
With the number of volunteer opportunities growing steadily each day, it is relatively easy to find the perfect cause or organization to work with. Try starting with a Google search to find initiatives you may be interested in. Or, you can enter your zip code on Volunteer Match to find an opportunity near you. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is a resource specifically for older adults and helps place seniors in the perfect volunteer position.
Whether you’d like to keep your mind sharp, share the knowledge you’ve gained over the course of your life, or are simply looking for a way to stay involved and active in your community, consider becoming a senior volunteer and give back during your retirement. Your body and mind will thank you!