Volunteering: The Gift that Gives Back

Volunteering: The Gift that Gives Back

I remember a couple of years ago I was going through some serious changes in my life, some were quite Attribution to Kimberly Recorfrustrating. I felt myself spiraling into a pretty serious depression, and it felt like nothing could lift the dark fog that was making its way into my life. The turning point came during a tea date with a friend. I confided to her how down and out I felt, how it seemed nothing was coming together in my life. When I finished, she said something that I still remember to this day: “ You need to get out of your head, and help someone else”.

She was right. I had been spending so much time focusing on myself, on what was wrong with my life, that I had become a prisoner in my own head. Nothing felt good enough, and I had no sense of pride or accomplishment.  My friend gave me the number of a homeless shelter where she sometimes volunteered, and the very next day I called. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I began volunteering almost right away, helping people apply for housing and jobs, working in the kitchen, or helping in the children’s center. By the end of the first day I felt happier than I had in weeks. Just spending a few hours helping someone else had completely gotten me out of my own head. Within a few weeks of me volunteering, my own problems began resolve, and my depression lifted.

One of my favorite quotes is this one by Winston S. Churchill: “ We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” One of the biggest problems those entering the second half of their life experience is a loss of purpose. With retirement comes the freedom that time gives you, but you also lose the sense of purpose that a career or family life can give you. You may find yourself with more time that you know what to do with, and although hobbies and extracurricular activities can be fun, they may not fill you with the sense of satisfaction you want.

Still unsure? Here are some great reasons to volunteer:

Do What You Love
How many of us get to work in a field that we are passionate about? By volunteering, you get the opportunity to use your time for something that you are truly passionate about. Most retired senior volunteers are much happier than those working for pay, because they get to dedicate themselves to something they find meaningful to their own lives.

Live Longer, Better
Volunteering has been scientifically proven to help seniors lead longer, healthier lives and it is the only productive activity that has been proven to prevent frailty among seniors.

Stay Involved and Connect with Others
Isolation and depression is a huge problem amongst seniors. A L.A. Times news article    reported that the average senior citizen watched around 7 hours of television a day. Volunteering allows you to stay active in your community and  can also help bridge the generation gap, since young people and seniors rarely have the opportunity to work together. By working together, there can be reciprocal learning and you can build meaningful relationships that benefit both parties.

You are Needed
Senior citizens have a lifetime of experiences under their belt. By having lived and learned so much already, you bring something really special to the table. Just think how much good you can do by sharing your wisdom with other, younger people.  Sometimes your find new friends among various age groups.

If you’re interested in volunteering, a great place to start is by visiting websites such as the Senior Corps, AARP, or calling non-profits that you’re interested in and asking them if they need help.

Author: Kimberly Recor, staff writer at Designing Brighter Tomorrows

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