Volunteering has always been a way for people to give back to their communities and make a difference. Research is showing that older adults who volunteer actually enjoy better mental and physical fitness. Volunteering also helps retirees to be more active and engaged.
But how can you start a volunteerism routine—especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to make so many things more challenging?
Here at Homestead Village, our THRIVE WHERE YOU ARE® philosophy promotes ways for older adults to stay connected with all the important people, places, and pursuits in their lives. Today’s blog post offers some of our best tips and ideas to get you started with sharing your time and talents, even if you are unable to leave home.
When deciding to volunteer, retirees should consider several key elements to ensure the opportunity is a good fit with your interests, skills, time, and personal needs. Volunteering is, of course, work without pay, so it should be work that you enjoy doing.
The first thing to decide when volunteering is what causes or issues interest you. Whether it is helping children, fighting poverty, becoming politically active, supporting the arts, or aiding animals, you need to pick a volunteer cause about which you are passionate. Volunteering for an organization because your friend or spouse does, but that is not in pursuit of a cause dear to your heart, will not be fulfilling. In fact, it may soon become drudgery—or something you do not look forward to doing.
Your time is valuable, so spend it in pursuit of a cause that matters to you.
Over the past year, Homestead Village residents committed to encouraging positive change relevant to diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice. We have organized several efforts to build awareness and deepen understanding of racial justice issues in our community. These actions have led to the creation of a collection of books tackling these same issues available for residents to read and creating the Moving4Change! wellness challenge and fundraising effort to support Advantage Lancaster.
One of the best benefits of volunteering is making new friends, meeting people who share your views, beliefs, and interests. Plus, volunteering gives you yet another place where people look forward to seeing you.
No matter what your profession was before you retired, your work skills and experience can be invaluable to a non-profit organization. When looking for a volunteer opportunity, be mindful of the skills you have that you like using. Volunteering should be an enjoyable way to help the community.
If you aren’t sure how your professional skills could fit into a volunteer opportunity, consider using a volunteer agency to help match you. Volunteer agencies maintain a database of open volunteer opportunities and can help you decide which ones would best meet your skills and interests.
You can also use online tools, like AARP’s Volunteer Wizard, AmeriCorps Seniors Opportunity, or Volunteer Match, to find the ideal volunteer opportunity near you.
When considering volunteer options, location matters. The closer the volunteer location is to your home, the easier it will be to get there. This is especially true for older adults who no longer drive and may need to arrange other transportation.
Also, when you volunteer close to home, the friends you make volunteering are more likely to be local, making it easier to connect with them outside of your volunteering hours.
Those living in a retirement community will likely have a wealth of volunteer opportunities right on campus. Here at Homestead Village, our community library is one example of a popular opportunity to lend your time and talents. Volunteers are always needed to keep books and lending organized and running smoothly. Volunteers also hold two highly anticipated book sales a year to raise funds. (You can read more in our previous blog post about educational opportunities at Homestead Village.)
Homestead Village residents have also organized drop-off locations across Homestead Village’s campus for non-perishable food donations. Regularly, cottage resident Jim Bear delivers a carload of donations to the Hempfield Area Food Pantry, serving those in need located in the Hempfield School District.
One of the most challenging aspects of volunteering can be saying ‘no’ when asked if you could volunteer more hours or take on additional tasks. Before making any volunteer commitment, you should take a close look at your schedule to make sure you protect enough time each day and week for your personal life, family, friends, and hobbies.
If you don’t know how much time you want to volunteer, start out by volunteering only a few hours per week. This will let you determine how much time is the right amount to volunteer, and if a given opportunity is a good fit.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, senior volunteers were needed everywhere, including schools, churches, libraries, shelters, thrift stores, and local government offices.
However, because older adults are vulnerable to COVID-19, many organizations have either put limits on or suspended their in-person volunteer programs. The good news is that there are plenty of “work from home” volunteer experiences you can try.
If you can’t or don’t feel safe volunteering in person right now, contact the agency you want to support and see if there are any tasks you can do from home. Many organizations have developed ways for you to volunteer virtually. There is always a need for volunteers to make phone calls, send text messages, and write letters for a cause. You may also still volunteer on a committee or board of directors that holds meetings on a virtual platform, like Zoom or Google Meet.
Although volunteering virtually doesn’t get you out of the house to be with others, it does keep you engaged and connected to the community. And, you can still use your skills to make a difference.
Homestead Village residents and staff have participated in Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child for several years. Participants fill a shoebox with various small toys, games, school supplies, and hygiene items, and completed boxes are then sent to children from more than 100 countries. And this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it became even more important to send a box of happiness to children in need.
While the pandemic may have put a damper on the fun experience of Christmas shopping for those special items, Homestead Village residents rose to the occasion, donating over 150 boxes filled with special gifts for children around the world.
When planning your retirement living, volunteering isn’t the only thing to consider that will keep you active and engaged. Make sure you are also looking at senior living options and retirement communities, like Homestead Village in Lancaster, PA, that support your lifestyle goals and offer plenty of life enrichment opportunities.
Whether you spend retirement in a retirement community or the home where you’ve lived for decades, your retirement years should be filled with fun activities, like volunteering, that promote your physical and emotional well-being.
We sincerely hope you are staying happy and healthy during this difficult time, whether you are one of our treasured Homestead Village Residents or part of our broader online community of friends and neighbors in Lancaster County and beyond.
If you have questions or simply want to learn more about finding the ideal balance between volunteering and living your retirement years to the fullest, please give us a call or contact us through HomesteadVillage.org.