Want to Feel better? Volunteer Your Time
Volunteering in your community can make you feel good, and recent research on senior volunteers from the UK adds to the evidence that regular volunteer work can improve your mental health. What’s more, the mental-health boosting effects of volunteering seem to increase as we age. That’s especially good news because many seniors are at increased risk for depression due to chronic health conditions and because depression often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in older adults
Volunteer opportunities for seniors
If you already volunteer in your community, increasing your hours may add to the protective effect for your mental health. If you’re looking for a new way to get involved, you may be amazed at how many options are open to you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Feed your neighbors. Local food banks rely on volunteers to gather donations from area grocers and restaurants and to sort them into packages for people going though financial hardships or recovering from natural disasters. To find your nearest food bank, enter your zip code on the Feeding America national food bank website.
Volunteer your voice. If you like reading aloud, Learning Ally is always looking for volunteers to help make audiobooks for blind and dyslexic clients around the US. You can record in one of the networks eight studios across the country or online via Learning Ally’s virtual studio. Another option is donating your voice to VocaliD’s Human Voicebank, which helps people who cannot speak on their own to communicate verbally through text-to-speech programs and digital voices.
Make something special. Getting out into the community is ideal, but when the weather is bad, transportation is limited, or your mobility makes outings a challenge, you can get involved without leaving the house. Knit and crochet enthusiasts, quilters, and crafters who don’t sew are always needed to make baby and kid blankets for Project Linus, which donates them to kids dealing with trauma or major illness.
Help local schools. Elementary and middle schools often need volunteers to run booths at fairs, monitor crosswalks before and after school, and help with in-school charitable projects such as community clothes closets for parents who need help outfitting their kids for school. Contact your local school front office or PTA to learn more.
Green your community. County extension programs and local universities often train volunteers to become certified Master Gardeners, Master Composter, or Master Naturalists. These programs require a multi-week commitment to classroom lessons plus volunteer hours answering questions from the public about gardening, wildlife, or composting. Your county extension agent can let you know what’s available in your area.
Take care of pets who need help. Local animal shelters can usually use a little extra help with dog-walking, pet grooming, kennel cleaning, and transporting animals to adoption fairs. Many shelters now call on volunteers to foster pets in their homes until they find a “forever family.”