Studies show that individuals who remain active and involved have an improved brain function and an overall sense of well-being. For many individuals, retirement brings with it a wealth of free-time but may also bring a feeling of being disconnected. Because people spend so many years juggling family, careers and other daily responsibilities, the downtime associated with retirement may lead to despair and depression. A way to combat this lack of purpose that comes with retirement is by volunteering. The benefits of volunteering are myriad and include the sense of well-being from helping others as well as having a sense of purpose cannot be discounted.
Some of the benefits of volunteering include:
- Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s: Because volunteers feel a greater satisfaction with their lives and have a higher quality of life than those who don’t volunteer, the risk of Alzheimer’s can be lessened.
- Lower rate of mortality: Getting up and out of the house on a semi-regular basis not only benefits the charity or place they volunteer but it also benefits him or her by keeping them active, social and engaged in the community.
- Keeping bones and joints strong. UCLA researchers found that “productive activities” could prevent the onset of frailty, a condition marked by low energy, low strength, weight loss and lowered physical activity. Reducing the impact of frailty could help a senior avoid a trip or fall accident which befalls many seniors over the age of 65.
- Brain function improvements: Seniors that participate in activities remain more alert and cognizant and this can help them age in place for more years than those who don’t participate in outside activities.
In addition to the benefits listed, volunteering offers immediate satisfaction by imparting a sense of accomplishment, purpose, enhanced social skills and helping by staying connected and involved. As a caregiver it may be a good idea to discuss the possibility of volunteering with the seniors in your life. Help them find an organization that is a good fit for their skills and abilities. Helping keep them active will enhance their ability to remain active and enable them to live independently.
When retirement rolls around, many seniors are unsure of what to do with all of their free time; as a caregiver or family member, it’s crucial that you help your elderly family member find ways to remain active and involved. Volunteering is a gratifying venue for many retired individuals as it gives them a way to give back to the community and gets them out of the house. Remaining active and involved and having a purpose in life, benefits your loved one in both mental and physical ways as well.
Studies have been conducted to show the benefits of volunteering. Consider talking to your parents and determine if volunteering might be an avenue for them to consider as it could enhance their life and allow them to age in place for many more years. In addition to volunteering and remaining active, having a home medical alert device for your aging loved ones also allows them to remain independent in their own home.
Here are the benefits volunteers reap:
- It can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Because volunteers report a higher satisfaction and quality of life than those individuals who don’t remain involved, they are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease (according to researchers at the University Medical Center in Chicago).
- Volunteering can lower the mortality rate in senior citizens. A study in the Journal of Gerontology showed that “those who gave social support to others had lower rates of mortality than those who did not, even when controlling for socioeconomic status, education, marital status, age, gender, and ethnicity;” this, alone, should be a motivating factor for volunteering.
- Remaining physically active lessens the risk of trips and falls and prevents frailty. In a report by UCLA, it was shown that productive activities “prevent the onset of frailty.” Frailty is marked by physicians as being low energy, strength, low physical activity and weight loss.
Remaining active and involved helps improve brain function.
- Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment and helps improve social skills. If your aging loved ones are involved with their peers, they will find a sense of community among them and that will enhance their retirement years.
If your retired parents are feeling at loose ends, you can help them uncover volunteer opportunities by starting with their hobbies and interests. If your parents have a particular skill (carpentry, crocheting, cooking etc.) that they could pass along to others, look into adult living centers as a place to share the skills they possess. Look into volunteer opportunities at local museums, theaters, schools, senior centers, youth organizations and places of worship. The volunteering activity should be one that your parents enjoy and look forward to so make certain it is a good fit for both them and the organization.