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Volunteering as Older Adults – Why Is It a Good Idea and Where Can I Help?

Older Adult volunteers generously contribute 100’s of service hours in Marin each year. It's been shown that volunteering is also beneficial for volunteers’ physical and emotional well-being.

Volunteering is good for our health.

Regular reports in local newspapers and publications extol the great contributions of Marin’s many individuals who generously volunteer their time and leadership skills to help local organizations.

A report published by the Marin Community Foundation entitled “Volunteering by Older Adults in Marin County: the Impact on Volunteers and the Organizations They Serve”, read: "Older adult volunteers represent a significant resource that nonprofits can leverage during a time of decreased funding and increased demand for services. Marin County’s growing population of older adults is rising to meet this increase in demand for volunteers.

What may be less known, however, is how beneficial the practice of volunteerism is to the health and wellbeing of the volunteers themselves.

According to the MCF report, the following are some of the major benefits to older adults of serving as volunteers in their communities:

1. Enhanced sense of purpose and self-worth. Contributing wisdom and know-how based on past careers, special interests, experience and life lessons leaves volunteers with a sense of satisfaction and of being valued.

2. Improved mental and physical health. Over half of older adult volunteers report that volunteering contributes moderately or significantly to their physical health, helps them feel significantly better emotionally and "keeps their minds sharp."

3. Increased confidence in one’s ability to make a difference in the community. Older adult volunteers emphasize how fulfilling it is to use their time, skills and experience to make differences in their communities.

4. Greater social support and community involvement. Volunteering helps most people feel more connected to their communities.

5. Exposure to new experiences and perspectives. Meeting new people, sharing skills, and hearing life stories leads to changing perspectives about community groups and issues.

6. Increased connection to younger generation. Older volunteers emphasize how energizing and valuable it is to spend time helping out younger people and feel that they are making a positive difference in these young folks’ lives.

Where Can I Go To Volunteer My Help?

This is easy to find out in Marin. We are fortunate to have Volunteer Marin, a program of Marin's Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership. Founded in 1965 as the Volunteer Bureau, the Center has been building the capacity of volunteers and nonprofits for over 40 years.

If you are Internet savvy, it is simple to log in to a very cool tool: www.VolunteerMarin.org. Once on their home page, click on “Opportunities”.  You will see a calendar of all kinds of opportunities, organizations, locations, dates and times that way.

You can also do wonderfully fruitful, customized searches by specifying your specifics and preferences, such as:

  • your location, and how far you might be willing to travel
  • your weekly schedule; what dates you are and are not available
  • what kinds of things you would like to do, for instance:
      • work with a particular organization
      • address a specific issue area, like arts, education, health, hunger, environment, or justice.
      • apply your special skills such as administrative, counseling, animal services, education, or construction.
      • specify what kinds of people you’d like to serve, such as age, gender, ethnic group, LGBT, veterans, families, or visitors.
      • select types of activity 
      • choose upcoming events that need volunteers

I tried out the Volunteer Search Tool and entered a stipulation that volunteer opportunities be within 10 miles of my home in Mill Valley. Up came 120 different interesting opportunities for volunteering at great organizations, including:

  • The Redwoods
  • The Audubon Center & Sanctuary
  • The Marine Mammal Center
  • Project Coyote
  • Hospice By The Bay
  • Marin History Museum
  • Fair Housing
  • Marin Art & Garden Center
  • Marin School Garden Network
  • The Bay Model 
  • The Civic Center
  • and more

Doing things like…

  • tutoring kids
  • serving as a tour guide or docent
  • taking care of injured animals
  • coordinating cultural and entertainment events
  • visiting the dying
  • serving hot meals to the homeless
  • designing web site and marketing materials
  • doing historical research
  • reading stories to children
  • managing a website
  • leading arts groups
  • working with autistic children
  • and so much more

For those of you who are unable to access Volunteer Marin online, you can contact them on the telephone through their parent organization, the Center for Nonprofit and Volunteer Leadership at 415-479-5710.

In this time of decreasing funding for excellent causes, and increased need by our fellow citizens, consider helping out and doing yourselves a favor, too. Try becoming a volunteer.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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