People who would describe themselves as “kind” may live longer than those who aren’t kind. “What?” you may ask. It’s true! According to this research, seniors who actively volunteer in two or more improve their overall health nearly as much as quitting smoking, and more than exercising four times a week. That is a big improvement. Altruism, what we would call kindness, can trigger certain areas of our brain known as “reward centers”, leading to that positive feeling you get when you have done something to help someone else. Kind acts can prevent or lessen depression, anxiety, and improve your overall sense of self-worth as well. Making a habit of these kind acts can increase these and many more benefits, not to mention the many benefits others will reap from your giving back. Organizations are always desperate for willing volunteers to help out for short periods of time in the week with the many tasks that go into making things run smoothly, and retired people fit the bill perfectly! Here are some ideas in where you can look for volunteer opportunities.
- Schools and after-school programs – many schools have programs for elementary-aged students to read with a “buddy”, improving their reading skills while giving the children important one-on-one time with an adult. Local Boys and Girls Clubs may offer these types of volunteer opportunities, or try asking local teachers if their school has a program similar to this.
- Charities – Food pantries and clothing closets are only the beginning of some of the many charities committed to helping those in crisis in your area. Volunteers are needed to help sort and organize the donated items, help walk families through the process of the organization, and everything in between.
- In your own day-to-day life – Look around to what you do on a daily or weekly basis… chances are, someone you regularly cross paths with is looking for a volunteer just like you! Whether you attend a church or a weekly bunco game, volunteers are needed in many places.
Remember, while volunteering, no matter what you do or for how much time you are doing it, you are not only impacting and improving the lives of people around you, but you are also reaping a benefit. Good do some good!