It came as a bit of a shock to me recently to realise I had been volunteering in the Age Concern wellington Region office for more than 18 months. While I had other projects on the go at the time, I noted that the time spent volunteering had been very satisfying. This led to the conclusion that there are benefits for the volunteer as well as for the recipients from this volunteering lark.
In essence it could be that humans are social beings so that developing and maintaining social contacts is virtually ingrained in our makeup.
If you consult Google, you can find numerous articles listing the benefits of volunteering, and this appears to be more pertinent for older people who may have time on their hands once they retired from the daily grind.
One article described the five benefits for older people to be gained from volunteering which seemed like a useful list, but probably not the complete picture.
Confidence: Volunteering can be a means of gaining confidence as you take on slightly different tasks and deal with issues in different circumstances, which can give you a real sense of achievement. It also gives you a sense of purpose especially if you have a set time to look forward to each week.
Learn new skills: The office work at ACWR is not too different from my previous office experiences, but the topics I deal with and write about have been completely different, so I have expanded my knowledge base, and taken on tasks that I would not have even thought of before.
Meeting New People: Although the ACWR office is small in terms of staff numbers, not all of whom attend every day as they are out and about, but they all come from different backgrounds and have their own tales to tell which adds to the interest in attending the office.
Being Part of the Community: There is any number of visitors and workers in adjacent offices to add to a developing circle of friends. It can also give you a feeling of purpose and can help you feel recharged with a new zest for life. Some pundits also suggest that it can also be a motivating factor for setting and accomplishing other goals.
Learning new skills: Many volunteering activities allow you to try things you’ve never done before and learn new skills and challenges that are a little outside of your comfort zone. You may develop a passion you never knew you had! I can certainly vouch for that as I have been introduced to new database management tools, interviewed a range of people and written articles on topics way outside my previous experience.
Mental Health: According to the National Institute on Aging, volunteering keeps the brain active, which contributes to mental health. In their view, meaningful and productive activities can help you feel happier and have a positive outlook on life.
Other advantages are that volunteering prevents loneliness and isolation, it increases physical activity, it bridges the generation gap, it helps you engage with old interests, and it helps you learn new skills. Some articles make volunteering sound like a wonder drug for older people.
From my experience working as an Office Support volunteer at ACWR, there are quite a few more than those listed above. I get some exercise walking to and from the office, I find myself doing ACWR tasks and thinking about various aspects of the work in my spare time at home, and most of all it is great fun. Give it a go – you may find a new lease of life!
~ Mick Calder, Office Support Volunteer