One of the joys of retirement is the opportunity to volunteer your time and give back to the community. If you’re an older adult in Florida who wants to make a difference, there are a number of ways you can get involved.

Volunteering ideas for older adults and retirees

There are numerous ways to get plugged in and start volunteering in your community. Organizations like Volunteer Florida and VolunteerMatch can help you discover specific opportunities near you.

Another great resource is the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) through Senior Corps, one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for older adults.

According to the organization’s website, “RSVP volunteers choose how, where, and how often they want to serve, with commitments ranging from a few hours to 40 hours per week.” If you’re interested, you can contact their Florida office directly.

Here are some other ideas to consider:

  • Becoming a foster grandparent — Senior Corps also offers a Foster Grandparents program. Volunteers serve as role models, mentors and friends to children in their community with exceptional needs.
  • Dog walking — Your local Humane Society or animal shelter is likely in need of volunteers to walk their dogs. This is a great option for staying active and enjoying the outdoors while giving back!
  • Providing a hot meal — Homeless shelters and food banks get a lot of attention around the holidays, but they need help year-round. Whether it’s cooking, serving a meal or organizing supplies, there are plenty of opportunities to serve the homeless in your community, from the Orlando area to Broward County to Palm Beach County and beyond.
  • Schools — Some schools are open to volunteers helping with play time, reading and other activities. This could also be a great option if you have a group looking to volunteer together. At Sonata West, a senior living community in Winter Garden, Florida, residents regularly volunteer at a local preschool to craft and read books with the students.
  • Museums — Many museums are free to the public and all of them rely on private donors and volunteers. Check with your local art, science and history museums to see if they’re accepting volunteers. Zoos often need help, too!
  • National parks — If you live near one of Florida’s national parks, you could volunteer your time in a variety of ways from behind-the-scenes to front-line positions.
  • Hospitals — Many Florida hospitals accept volunteers, including “cuddlers” who cradle babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). You may also be able to volunteer in administrative roles or to provide companionship to patients undergoing treatment.
  • Volunteer from home — There are ways to volunteer “virtually” without ever leaving the house! For example, you can sew and knit blankets for organizations like Warm Up America and Binky Patrol, or send letters of encouragement to people undergoing cancer treatment through Chemo Angels.

The benefits of community service: 4 reasons to volunteer in retirement

Not only is community service a way to help others, but it’s good for you, too! There are numerous benefits to volunteering:

  1. It keeps you active — Volunteering can get you outdoors, promote mobility and encourage daily activity that keeps you moving. Even if it’s just walking around the library or museum, this added light exercise can help you stay healthy as you age.
  2. Improved happiness — According to the National Institute on Aging, studies have shown that volunteering decreases depression and improves overall happiness. “The researchers found it improved the volunteers’ cognitive and physical health” and “researchers think [volunteering] might also have long-term benefits, lowering the older adults’ risk of developing disability, dependency, and dementia in later life.”
  3. Reduced dementia risk — Volunteer activities can keep your brain sharp and foster creativity. According to a recent University of Calgary research study, older adults who volunteer consistently reduce their risk of dementia. “We found that the people who did volunteer work for at least one hour a week on a regular basis were 2.44 times less likely to develop dementia than the seniors who didn’t volunteer,” said the study’s lead professor.
  4. Mentor and learn from younger generations — Community service goes beyond the tangible work you do. It’s an opportunity to share your experiences with younger generations (and perhaps change their misconceptions about yours). At the same time, it’s also an opportunity for you to learn from them.

Volunteering truly is a win-win. Don’t miss out one of the greatest joys of retirement: sharing your time, experience, skills and passion with others. When you volunteer, you receive more than what you invest.

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

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