By Peter G. Tamburro, Boomerang staff writer
"Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Where do you find fulfillment? Is it in big, sweeping gestures that are recognized or rewarded, or is it in small steps that build upon what you know and learn for the betterment of others? Do you feel good when your actions, commitment and dedication makes your corner of the world, your community, a little better? By volunteering to help others, you can be a hero to someone, and you may just find yourself healthier from the effort.
Older Ohioans give more than 350,000 hours of their time in volunteer service each year, helping people of all ages. When we incorporate service into our lives, we make a difference in our communities and our nation. As volunteers, we develop a sense of pride, satisfaction and accomplishment while giving our time and talents to others. In addition to supporting our communities, volunteering also has many personal benefits for the volunteer.
Volunteering is about connecting to others. You'll meet others with common interests, learn about local resources and engage in interesting activities. It is also a great way to share your values and beliefs with other generations. Children learn by watching and imitating, so grab your kids or grandkids and teach them how to make a difference. Volunteering can boost self-confidence and build social and relationship skills. It can give you and your family the opportunities to develop your social skills as you meet those with common goals and interests.
Volunteering can bolster your emotional well-being as well. It gives you a sense of pride and identity, and a positive direction for future goals. It is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions, as well as help rejuvenate creativity that can carry over into your personal and professional life. When you volunteer, you develop a solid support system, and research has shown that when you give your time and talents to worthy causes, you have a lower risk of depression.
Physically, volunteering has been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease, no matter your age. Studies suggest that older volunteers have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like overall health of participants. Volunteers are less likely to suffer from ill health later in life.
A 2003 study from the Washington University found that, "Older adults who volunteer and who engage in more hours of volunteering report higher levels of well-being." And according to a 2004 Greenfield and Marks study, "Formal volunteering moderated the loss of a sense of purpose among older adults who had experienced the loss of major role identities, such as wage-earner and parent." No matter your age, it's never too late to become a volunteer and enjoy all of these benefits.
If you've been thinking about volunteering, the best approach is to match your personality and interests with something you find enjoyable and are capable of doing within an organization's needs. There are plenty of opportunities at community theaters, museums and monuments. Service organizations such as Lions club, Rotary clubs, libraries or senior centers are usually looking for volunteers. Non-profit organizations like historical societies, national parks, and places of worship can always use extra help to defray overhead expenses. If you're over 60, check out the Ohio Department of Aging's website for volunteer opportunities specifically geared to make the most of your talents and interests to serve your community while having real benefits for you too.
Read more Boomerang...