Volunteering when we are older gives us a sense of purpose, it makes us happy. Often, when older, we live away from our family, they have busy lives and we can feel isolated or alone.

Volunteering can make us feel worthwhile, needed and this nurturing feeling makes us feel younger, more vibrant, happy and energetic. We know kindness can release our feel-good hormones in our brain, so it’s like a happy pill.

Volunteering is a contagion. When we volunteer or see someone volunteering, we want to do it or do more of it. It just makes us feel good. Similar to when we perform a kind act for someone without any expectation, this too is contagious and makes us feel good.

We all need a sense of purpose and this is particularly important as we grow older. Research tells us that only those from 40 years onward feel a difference in their life when choosing to volunteer. This then escalates and becomes more pronounced when in our late 70’s. The feeling we generate when we give back for no reason, not expecting something in return but just to give because we can, and we want to, is a wonderful inner feeling that also shows externally on us. We feel and look brighter and happier. Studies have found volunteering makes people feel younger again. It also found that those volunteering can do more physically than previously, as their energy level and brain activity are heightened.

We are designed to be Social

Socially we are designed to interact, age often prevents us from being able to do that. Once we stop paid work, live alone or live away from family we can feel alone and isolated. Volunteering fulfils that social craving we have within. Not only providing a purpose to get up in the morning but a feeling of contributing to others less fortunate or unable to do things for themselves now. Volunteering gives us a sense of community, to be a part of something greater than our self. It takes us out of our own life and head and makes us think of others first. It is emotionally, mentally and physically beneficial to us.

There really is no reason to feel bored or alone when older. Volunteering provides us with new friends and connections. We become part of something again and when we are needed we generate new liveliness to fulfil that requirement to give to others, to help out.

Having a purpose gives us a healthier outlook on life, prevents us from becoming depressed and increases our energy levels.

Do It Now

There are so many organisations both big and small anyone can volunteer for. You can help at the local hospital, visit children’s wards, read for the local pre-school or infant school, do meals on wheels, take lifeline calls, or be a constant visitor at the local aged care facility to talk with residents, play music and sing or have a game of cards with. So many areas of need.

Those more actively capable people can mow lawns for those community members unable to do this, shop for them or drive them to the local supermarket to help them get their groceries while having a coffee and a chat.

Go on, have a think, take some time, search the internet for groups and ways to give back to those needing help, company and support. You will be forever thanked and feel wonderful for you small effort.

Read more from Dr Karen

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