You may have left the workforce, but this doesn’t mean you’ve left behind a lifetime of experience and skills. Don’t let your talent go to waste. By volunteering for a worthy cause, you can provide vital help to people in need. And the act of giving back to the community has a boomerang effect. You may have heard of the “giver’s high” — the great feeling volunteers get when doing something selfless. Here are 7 benefits of volunteering that go far beyond a fleeting zing.
- Builds Belonging. A well-known benefit of volunteering is how it connects people to their community. You’ll find it’s a great way to expand your social network and meet new people of all ages. Volunteering for a cause that’s a personal passion or interest links you with people who share your interests, and helps you discover more about the neighborhood you live in.
- Prevents Isolation. It can be difficult to stay socially active after retiring from work or if you live alone. The AARP estimates up to 17% of older adults age 65 and older are affected by social isolation. By helping at a place of worship, a park, school,or museum, volunteering for even a few hours a week can open up new social networks.
- Keeps You Sharp. Volunteering tests your cognition, memory, and brain function by engaging you in conversations and new activities. You might learn about other cultures, meet people from all walks of life and raise your awareness of social issues.
- Develops Social Skills. Senior volunteers who are shy or introverted can practice their people skills. By getting to know the same set of people or adapting to an ever-changing group of volunteers like yourself, you’ll get better at introducing yourself, picking up social cues and working with a team.
- Boosts Spirits. Human beings crave positive, meaningful interactions. One benefit of volunteering is that it brings more of these positive relationships into our lives. By focusing on something other than ourselves, we can take our minds off spiraling inner thoughts, and feel happier as a result.
- Adds Purpose. Older adults no longer working or living without their spouse can rediscover new meaning and direction by helping others. The role of volunteer can lend structure to their days and boost their self-esteem with a newfound sense of pride and identity.
- Enhances Vitality. Volunteering is good for your physical health. An AmeriCorps report found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates, better functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life than those who don’t volunteer. Regular volunteers are more likely to be active, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks and have less risk of developing high blood pressure.
Anyone Can Volunteer
Nowadays, even if you have mobility issues or a chronic health condition that keeps you at home, you can still lend a hand virtually. All that’s needed is a computer. You can assist as a weekly reading buddy for young children at TutorMate. Or help students obtain scholarships and make a financial plan for college at the Atlanta-based Scholarship Academy.
The best part about volunteering is that anyone can do it. You don’t need special skills to be a volunteer, just the willingness to learn and pitch in wherever needed. Or perhaps you feel you’re too busy to be an effective volunteer, or by doing it once you’ll always be called to help. The truth is you don’t have to take a lot of time out of your day or make a long-term commitment.
Whether you can help full time, part time, or for just a few hours, there are around 5,000 nonprofits in the metropolitan Atlanta area where you can volunteer — a few are listed below. You can also check the national database VolunteerMatch to sign up at a nonprofit near you based on cause and location.
- Furkids is among Atlanta’s largest cage-free, no-kill animal shelters. Sign up to supervise child and teenage volunteers, care for and feed the animals, and assist in the thrift shop.
- Atlanta Humane Society accepts volunteers willing to help with processing adoptions and walking dogs.
- Foreverfamily helps children of imprisoned parents. Volunteers chaperone children and assist them in preparing for a prison visit.
- Soccer in the Streets reaches 5,000 underserved children in Atlanta, College Park and DeKalb County. Volunteers assist as coaches, referees, mentors and office helpers.
- Lekotek of Georgia helps children with disabilities gain new skills and self-esteem through playtime. Volunteers help children learn a variety of skills, translate Spanish for some families, and run special events.
Help the Environment:
- Chatthoochee Riverkeepers relies on volunteers to monitor water quality in urban streams and weekend cleanups.
- Park Pride holds “Greener Good Volunteer Days” where volunteers mulch, clear invasive species and pick up litter.
Help the Hungry:
- Hosea Helps feeds more than 5,000 every Thanksgiving, and hosts events and food programs throughout the year. Volunteers help with preparing and serving meals, and putting together care packages of food and clothes.
Help for a Few Hours:
- Second Helpings asks volunteer drivers to pick up donated food from restaurants and deliver it to food pantries and shelters. Shifts are 90 minutes long from start to finish.
- MedShare International volunteers sort, check expiration dates, and ship excess medical supplies and equipment to medical mission teams. Shifts at the distribution center last three hours.
- Trees Atlanta needs volunteers every Saturday and one Sunday per quarter to mulch, plant and prune the urban forest.
Bring Your Passion and Positivity to Canterbury Court
Canterbury Court residents are active and engaged in the community, and volunteer regularly at many local churches, schools, food pantries, and nonprofits organizations in and around Atlanta. Join them in making an impact — contact us to learn about our enriching retirement lifestyle that’s good for you in so many ways.