Most people hope that their golden years are for going on vacations to faraway places, attending family reunions and dinners with the grandkids, and checking things off their bucket list. But if volunteering isn’t on your list of things to do in retirement, researchers suggest adding it.
Not only do older adults who volunteer lead happier lives, but they also lead healthier lives. According to a research review that examined 73 studies published over the past 45 years:
- Volunteering lowers the risk of depression, improves overall health, and leads to fewer functional limitations and greater longevity.
- Spending just two to three hours per week volunteering is all you need to reap the benefits.
- Seniors with chronic health conditions benefit the most from volunteering.
Volunteering also contributes to older Americans leading more purposeful lives. Purpose, as defined by William Damon, a psychologist at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, is “sustained commitment to something that is meaningful to the self and contributes to something larger, beyond the self.”
And people with purpose tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives. According to the Pathways to Encore Purpose project, older adults age 50 to 90 who engage in purpose-oriented activities develop rewarding relationships, experience great joy and derive a general sense of well-being.
But in March, at the American Society on Aging’s Aging in America Conference and the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit, experts said nonprofits and employers could do more to tap the desire for purpose of people 50 and older. Some of the biggest hurdles to volunteering include lack of skills, transportation and awareness of volunteering opportunities.
If you know someone who is making a difference in the lives of others — and improving their own lives in the process — the AARP announced it is seeking nominations for the AARP Purpose Prize, which will award $50,000 cash prizes to each of five winners for outstanding work by people age 50 and older that is focused on advancing social good. Applications are also being accepted for the new Encore Prize, which offers $100,000 in cash prizes to organizations or individuals of any age with new ideas for mobilizing adults age 50 and older to help serve youth at risk and help young people thrive.
To connect with a cause that needs you, get customized recommendations based on what matters to you, and to uncover new volunteer opportunities in your community, wherever you are, visit volunteermatch.org.