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The Golden Years – A Golden Opportunity

Perhaps you know someone – a grandparent, an old school teacher or a retired professional – who may benefit from volunteering during the golden years of his/ her life.  Read on to find out how.

Several countries across the world have shown an increase in the number of older people volunteering in recent years. Some may argue that this is simply due to changing demographics, while others may say it is due to an increased awareness amongst older people of the importance of civic engagement.  But whatever the reason, there is no denying the benefits older people can bring to volunteering in terms of their experience, wisdom and commitment.

An aspect that is sometimes overlooked however, is what the person volunteering can gain from the experience. This article aims to highlight just that:

An opportunity to try something new:

Many people see their retirement years as an opportunity to do all the things they wanted to earlier, but never could find the time for. Travel is a great example and is one of the activities that can be combined with volunteering.

 Physically and mentally invigorating:

Volunteering can provide the opportunity to keep one’s mind active and alert – important in one’s golden years, especially since experts believe that engaging in mentally challenging activities helps stave off problems such as memory loss. Similarly, one could combine volunteering and physical exercise, an equally important factor in staying healthy.

 A feeling of pride and self-esteem:

Many retired individuals find themselves feeling ‘useless’ – they feel that they have nothing to contribute to their family or society any more. The opportunity to share their expertise and experiences or to simply help someone else could instil a feeling of purpose, pride and self-esteem.

Overcoming depression:

Depression is another problem that plagues the elderly. It can set in after the loss of a partner or friend, or during life changing situations such as moving to a new city, retiring etc. Studies have found that volunteering helps one combat depression, by acting as a mood booster. Helping someone else can make one feel good about oneself and add meaning and purpose to one’s life.

A feeling of belonging:  

Isolation, unfortunately, is one of the harsh realities of old age. More and more elderly people are forced to live on their own or in an old age home, which often leads to a feeling of isolation from society. Even for those who live with their families, it often comes to pass that they don’t feel connected to a community. Being part of a volunteering project can give one a sense of belonging and purpose, especially when it involves a project being undertaken for a good cause. It also provides the opportunity to meet new people with similar interests and to make new friends.

There is a pressing need for skilled and experienced volunteers across a variety of NGOs and older or retired individuals can provide just this, while they reap several benefits themselves in the process. With the population of people over the age of 64 currently at approximately 6 per cent and 9 per cent in India and in the world respectively, we are presented with an invaluable resource – one whose potential is yet to be fully realised.

It is important that the individual find the right kind of volunteering opportunity, depending on his/ her unique needs. PledgeBack can help you here. Write in to us if you or anyone you know could benefit from this.

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