Volunteering locally can help strengthen your community’s healing, development, and connection, but it also holds benefits for volunteers. Volunteering your time for a prosocial (communal) cause heightens well-being, especially in older adults. Volunteering aids in healthy aging practices by strengthening your emotional, social, and physical wellness.
How volunteering helps you
Seniors are at special risk of loneliness and isolation. Nearly one-fourth of adults ages 65+ are considered socially isolated, and loneliness contributes to depression, cognitive decline, and heart disease. Volunteering wards off depression and has been found to lessen existing depression symptoms after only one year of volunteering.
Developing meaningful social connections is an important part of feeling connected. Volunteering for a cause that is important to you opens up opportunities to bond with others with similar values. Volunteering with existing friends or family can also strengthen those relationships while creating new ones and building a bigger support network within your community.
Those fulfilling relationships also give volunteers a sense of appreciation and meaning, leading to lower rates of stress and improved mental health. Spending time serving others helps build confidence and self-esteem, giving you a sense of identity and pride. When you feel good about yourself, your perspective on life and your future become more positive and can even increase your overall life satisfaction.
Astudy done over an 18-year timespan on 70,000 participants in the United Kingdom found that compared to those who didn’t volunteer, those who had volunteered in the past had higher life satisfaction and better overall health. The study concluded that it’s not that happy people are more likely to volunteer, but people who volunteer become happier over time.
While the mental health benefits of volunteering are vast, there are many physical benefits, too. Volunteering keeps people (especially seniors) active within their community and encourages those who might not be regularly active to engage in physical exercise. Adults ages 50+ who volunteer regularly are less likely to develop high blood pressure due to the increase in physical activity and lower stress levels. Volunteering has even been linked to an increased lifespan.
Humans are heavily influenced by other people. When someone sees you doing something good, they are more motivated to do good themselves. When you do a good deed, you are potentially starting a butterfly effect of people helping others and, in turn, helping themselves.
How to get started
Some people like to diversify their volunteer opportunities by sticking to sporadic one-time jobs, but if you would like to enjoy the benefits of volunteering long-term, you should:
1. Know your abilities and what you can offer
2. Know your limits - both physically and emotionally
3. Know when you’d be available
4. Figure out what matters to you and why you are volunteering
Wellzesta encourages users to live purposefully and provides the tools they need to achieve this goal.
Wellzesta Life offers residents the opportunity to form groups of like-minded people who are interested in helping their community. Life also provides the space to organize volunteer events for residents in the Events section.
Click here to learn more about how Wellzesta can help your community.