Lack of physical activity, depression, and social isolation are often associated with older adults, and can contribute to a variety of negative health outcomes. However, a study by AmeriCorps Seniors found that after two years of volunteering, participants had notable improvements:
• 62% reported their health was stable, and 32% improved over a two-year period
• 78% of the volunteers reported fewer symptoms of depression
• 88% reported decreased feelings of isolation
AmeriCorps Seniors study shows that volunteers are healthier, less depressed, and more connected compared with those who do not volunteer regularly.
The following are some thoughts and feeling from a few volunteers serving at AAA-Five County:
Karen – “I live alone, which can be very depressing. I thought being a Senior Companion was the answer to helping myself. I am able to get out of my house and meet others. Yes, I help others, but it has helped me to be social again.”
Gabrielle – “One night I was sitting like a Zombie watching something on T.V. when I realized I had seen the program so many times I could recite the lines! The next day I called Five Counties and asked if they needed any help. I enjoy having a purpose to my life again.”
Julie – “I believe so much in volunteering and have tried to do it my entire life. I have often felt when I am feeling alone or down it is time to reach out of myself and lift someone else. It’s a recipe that works.”
Grieg – “Working with children has given me purpose in my life! Before I began the Foster Grandparent Program, I was having difficulty filling my days with purpose.”
Dorothy – “If I am out of sorts about something, dwelling on it only makes it worse. If I spend time with a client, and serve them, my own concerns seem to disappear. A win, win on both sides!!!”
Harold – “The hardest thing about getting old is listening to all your friends talk about their aches and pains, and all the negative things in their lives. I found the best thing I could do is stay positive. Volunteering gave me a reason to move forward and not worry about what I can’t do but find things I can do. I also found others a lot of worse off than myself and serving them gave me new friends and lots of love. When you serve others, you don’t have time to worry about yourself. I feel years younger than they say I am, and I can keep busy and feel I am doing some good in my life, so it is still worthwhile.”
Margaret – “Were I not volunteering, I would probably be vegging out at home watching TV all day and robbing myself of kindness, appreciation, caring and love shown to me by my lovely ladies.”
John – “Besides how it benefits those I serve, it also benefits me, by giving me a reason to get moving in the morning. It helps my self-esteem and gives me the feeling that I am giving back to others!”
Ann – “I value the volunteering that I do. I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have a good family and close friends. So many of the people I serve are lonely and have little family or are at odds with the family that they have. They are consistently kind and gracious to me and that makes me want to be kind and gracious to them. It is a mutual, beneficial relationship. Each one of them have contributed to my wellbeing. This is the most rewarding endeavor that I have ever undertaken, and I hope to continue for as long as I am able.”
“Are there benefits to volunteering?” The answer is YES! Seniors have a long history of setting examples for all to follow by serving our friends and neighbors. You are older, wiser – and you are needed! Make a difference in your life and in the lives of those you serve! Get Involved today!
Joni Lyman is the AmeriCorps Seniors-Senior Companion Program coordinator for the AAA-Five County. She has spent her career as a volunteer coordinator and takes great pleasure in helping older adults to find their way of getting involved in their community.