305 West End Assisted Living Blog

5 Reasons Volunteering Benefits Older Adults

Happy volunteering senior couple smiling at the camera during a sunny day.

Volunteering can be a powerful way to positively impact others, but there are also mental and physical health benefits, especially for older adults. Helping others can reduce stress and provide a sense of purpose while increasing opportunities for social interactions and lifelong learning.

Advances in technology and virtual work have made volunteering more accessible to seniors with a variety of health conditions and limited mobility or transportation options. Older adults who engage in volunteering may experience higher self-esteem and life satisfaction.

Learn more about how volunteering can benefit seniors in this blog from 305 West End Assisted Living.

How Volunteering Benefits Seniors 

1. Volunteering can help you form new social connections. 

Older adults may be at an increased risk of isolation – especially as family moves away, and friends pass on. Volunteering is a unique opportunity for meeting new people and forming new relationships. This can help prevent loneliness and depression, which are linked to serious physical health conditions.

2. Volunteering creates a sense of purpose. 

Volunteers often feel a renewed sense of purpose in life that may have dwindled upon retirement. Having a strong sense of purpose in life has been associated with decreased mortality, and may have additional health benefits, such as a better overall quality of life. 

Related: 5 Strategies for Overcoming Loneliness in Older Adults >>

3. Volunteering may improve your self-esteem. 

Volunteering may improve your self-esteem and confidence. Forming new social connections, learning new skills, and making a difference in meaningful ways can instill a sense of purpose and belonging. Many volunteers who share a skill, passion, or interest with others may feel a sense of accomplishment and identity.

4. Volunteering may lower your risk of developing dementia.

Older adults can make numerous lifestyle changes to lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising, research suggests that volunteering may also be beneficial. Data from a recent study showed that older adults who volunteer regularly reported better cognitive function, including better executive function and episodic memory.

5. Volunteering can help you reduce stress and improve physical health.

Chronic stress can have a negative impact on almost every aspect of physical health. Volunteering helps you stay physically and mentally active and may serve as a buffer that lowers stress and reduces the risk of disease. Volunteering may increase social interactions, improve self-esteem, and provide a sense of purpose.  

Related: 7 Health and Wellness Goals for Older Adults >>

Senior man volunteering with a group of people to package food donations at a community outreach center.

Where to Find Volunteer Opportunities for Seniors in NYC

If you’re interested in volunteering, you may feel overwhelmed with where to begin your search. Numerous organizations in the area specialize in connecting volunteers with opportunities.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is a New York City-based agency that connects volunteers 55 and older with volunteer opportunities throughout the five boroughs.
  • New York Cares is a non-profit organization that has been meeting the needs of New Yorkers through volunteer service for decades. You can search for a project that fits your interests and schedule by browsing the detailed volunteer opportunities on the website.
  • The Foster Grandparents Program for adults 55+ provides opportunities for seniors who want to work with children in the community. Volunteers serve as mentors, tutors, and caregivers for children with special needs.
  • The ACLU of New York is always looking for volunteers to assist in its mission — no law degree is required. You can sign up here to get notified about available opportunities.
  • For those passionate about pets, Foster Dogs NYC can match dogs in need with foster caretakers in the area. Volunteers can specify the types of dogs they wish to foster, such as senior or small-breed dogs.

Additionally, online, non-local services such as VolunteerMatch and AmeriCorps Seniors can match seniors with organizations that have immediate volunteer needs.

Explore Additional Health and Wellness Resources

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in informational blogs on how to be happy at any age or these effective stress reduction techniques.

This blog was originally published in 2022. It was updated in October 2023.

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