Volunteers of all ages continue to inspire me. Whether they are teenagers helping to prepare tax returns or seniors sharing their time, experience and good will, people of all ages are finding that volunteering is part of an active, healthy and independent lifestyle.
Through the Senior Corps program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, more than 360,000 people volunteer through RSVP programs, many of them managed by United Ways. Volunteers 55 and older can participate as Senior Companions or as Foster Grandparents, help rebuild after disasters, tutor kids, provide veterans with services, and more.
RSVP program priorities align with United Way’s: tutoring and mentoring youth to be successful in schools and helping elderly individuals maintain good health, financial stability, an independent lifestyle. For example, United Way of Pierce County in Takoma, Washington has about 400 RSVP volunteers. Six of them are helping launch a pilot project called “LIL Readers.” By reading with children in small and in-home child care centers, these volunteers will help ensure a strong start for children before they enter kindergarten. United Way is partnering with Pierce County Library, which will provide the training and materials.
In South Burlington, Vermont, United Way of Chittenden County sponsors and manages an RSVP and the Senior Corps Foster Grandparent Program, and also offers “Neighbor Rides” for volunteers who “drive to make a difference” by transporting seniors to doctor’s appointments and other life-sustaining and enriching experiences. Other RSVP volunteers help prepare and deliver meals to homebound individuals and follow up with them to make sure their nutritional needs are being met. Still others help seniors who are not computer-savvy navigate the Medicare website. The variety of contributions goes on. In this video, the RSVP Coordinator for United Way of East Central Iowa discusses United Way's efforts to help senior citizens find volunteer positions that fit their lifestyles.
In communities as different as West, Texas; Missoula, Montana; and New York City; RSVP volunteers are living more active and healthy lives through their volunteer service. One volunteer says that she is a Senior Companion, because “it saves the government money, it saves me money and it is nice to be independent, and live independently.” Indeed, volunteering is part of a healthy, active and independent lifestyle, particularly as we age. Research suggests that volunteering not only contributes to good physical health, but good mental health and happiness as well. Volunteering can lessen depression and even extend a good quality of life.
Know someone 55 or older? Your local United Way can connect them with the organizations and people who need them most. The right volunteer opportunity will improve the quality of life for most volunteers and the people they serve.