When retirees give of themselves, it’s a win-win situation for the volunteers and the organizations they serve.
Research shows that retirees who volunteer have fewer physical problems and higher levels of well-being than those who don’t volunteer, according to the U.S. government’s Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
Additionally, a study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that older Americans who volunteer frequently live longer and report less mental health issues.
“Volunteering may be particularly helpful for older Americans undergoing a life stress or for those who are at risk for being isolated,” states the study. “One study found that bereaved individuals who engaged in volunteering activities to help others experienced a shorter course of depression than those who did not volunteer. … Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose.”
Nancy Diamond, who moved to Hilton Head Island with her husband, John, after his retirement, can vouch for the many rewards volunteerism brings. She volunteers at the Children’s Center on the island, which offers low-cost childcare to the community’s working class residents.
“I have no children of my own, but I have about 145 of them at the center,” said Diamond. “I love them all! They’re my little cherubs, even when they’re not angels. I really enjoy the children and the teachers. It’s just very uplifting.”
Many local organizations depend almost exclusively on folks who do volunteer work in their retirement years, such as Volunteers in Medicine. VIM provides free medical, dental and mental health services to families and individuals who otherwise have no access to health care.
“Our volunteers are the heart and soul of VIM,” said Ginger Allen, marketing manager. “Without them we wouldn’t be able to provide the care that we do. They want to continue to utilize their skills, and volunteering brings them a sense of being able to continue doing what they love.”
She added that more than 700 volunteers give over 1,000 hours of service each week at VIM.
Nationally, more than 62 million older adults volunteered almost 8.1 billion hours in local and national organizations in 2010, services that are valued at almost $173 billion, according to a CNCS study.
But it’s not only the organizations that benefit; it’s also the country as a whole.
“Every day, volunteers are giving their time and talents to solve problems and make our country stronger,” said Robert Velasco II, of CNCS. “Whether tutoring at-risk students or providing job training to veterans or responding to natural disasters, ordinary Americans are doing extraordinary things to improve the long-term health and vitality of the nation.”
For Diamond, the value of her volunteer work is immeasurable.
“I just love volunteering,” she said. “It very much keeps you busy. It’s a great way to give back to this wonderful community, and there are so many volunteer opportunities on this wonderful island.
“After all, there’s only so much golf, bridge and tennis you can play!”