Quality senior living is all about community – active older adults living together to maximize fun and fulfillment and minimize isolation, household responsibilities and, often, costs of at-home care.
But “community” is quite literal in that many seniors, especially those in senior housing, have built-in opportunities to get out into the broader area and partner with local organizations, leaders and charitable causes for the greater good.
The best senior communities have pre-established relationships with regional organizations that relish the help of experienced, wise, talented and passionate retirees. And the multiple benefits of community outreach to seniors are well-documented.
Benefits of Community Outreach for Seniors
One in four people over the age of 55 volunteers in some capacity. That’s an enormous contribution to communities! Let’s explore what donating their time and talents does for them:
- Healthy Physical Activity. Whether it’s painting a Habitat home, cleaning up a city parkway, or strolling one’s favorite museum as a docent, volunteer work often involves movement and an opportunity to improve physical fitness. Research from the Corporation for National and Community Service found that Americans over 60 who volunteer reported lower levels of disability and higher levels of well-being than those who don’t.
- Mental, Emotional and Cognitive Benefits. Offering one’s time to a worthy cause has tremendous mental and emotional advantages, as humans crave purpose and inner satisfaction in their lives. Giving back often fosters new friendships and connections, too, thereby mitigating isolation and depression. What’s more, multiple studies have found that volunteering can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as it keeps the body and brain active in neurologically healthy ways. For those who are non-ambulatory or cannot easily get out into the community, there is great need for rewarding home-based projects such as knitting caps for newborns or being a mentor for someone via phone or Skype.
- Bridges the generation gap. An oft-cited bonus of senior volunteer work is that it brings people of all ages together in a common effort. As youth and teens are often encouraged or required to be involved in community service for college entrance or other merit-based endeavors, young and old are likely to be in contact with one another when volunteering their time. The potential to build special – and rare – relationships across the ages is huge.
- Builds confidence. As we age, we are more likely to be aware of what we can no longer do. But giving one’s years of skill and wisdom to a community cause helps create a sense of accomplishment and assurance that they can still be tremendously impactful. In fact, a study out of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania discovered that not only does volunteering help seniors feel more capable and useful, they feel energized to do even more and effect greater positive change. In essence, they feel like they have even more time.
Benefits of Senior Volunteerism for Local Organizations
- Good, free help. Regardless of all the intangible benefits of volunteerism, the bottom line is that many hands make light work, and seniors offer some of the best help around. They have the time, the desire, and the experience to make a real difference in whatever project or cause they put their hearts into. People over 65 volunteer more than any other demographic, clocking about 94 hours per senior per year.
- Changes stereotypes about seniors. When youth and other populations witness the skill, knowledge and expertise older adults bring to community outreach, it changes ageist misconceptions that seniors aren’t “with it” or are not as capable as other age groups.
- Brings diversity. A diverse group of volunteers makes for a broader range of abilities and experience and fosters important intergenerational relationships.
- Provides grandparent figures to younger volunteers. While some seniors literally serve as foster grandparents, older volunteers in any capacity can provide that special bond for children or teens whose grandparents have either passed away or are not close by.
Community Outreach at Friendship Village
Residents and staff at Friendship Village have numerous meaningful partnerships and activities with various local groups and organizations. In fact, they have clocked over 5,500 volunteer hours at Friendship Village and throughout the greater community.
One of the most vital relationships is our seven-year team-up with the Schaumburg Boomers baseball club. Each year, Friendship Villages houses two players from around the country during the season, providing team members with necessary accommodations and creating mutually beneficial intergenerational bonds. Residents enthusiastically attend Boomers games, and at a special Friendship Night at Boomers Stadium, the Friendship Village Choir sings the National Anthem, and residents serve as honorary coach, throw out the first pitch, and participate in a home run derby.
Another Friendship Village outreach effort involves residents making dinner for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Winfield. Together, they chop, mix and serve up meals from the heart for people whose children are being treated at Central DuPage Hospital. Residents also help Children’s Home and Aid, where they deliver pantry donations and visit with children, and prepare meals for Feed My Starving Children.
And the list goes on.
The mutually beneficial value of senior volunteers and the efforts they support cannot be overstated. It’s an indisputable “win-win” for everyone!