Age Well, Live Better – Volunteer! will build on work of the Community Services Council Newfoundland and Labrador and the Seniors Resource Centre Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc. Provincial Peer Advocate Program.Project activities will include seniors’ forums in at least two regions (Cabot Loop and Burin Peninsula), aiming to increase awareness among seniors of volunteer opportunities, the benefits of volunteering, how their skills and interests might contribute to the work of community groups, challenges and barriers for older adults volunteering and how these might be addressed.
Workshops with nonprofits will aim to increase their knowledge of strategies to recruit, manage and retain older adults as volunteers, including how to address challenges and barriers. The project will bring representatives of community groups together with seniors interested in becoming involved, and provide monitoring and support to help ensure a positive volunteering experience.
Why should seniors get involved? Why should anyone volunteer? Because volunteering is good for volunteers and good for the community. Volunteering is a way to overcome isolation, network, make friends and do something meaningful. Research conducted over the past two decades across North America and the UK demonstrates myriad mental and physical health benefits from volunteering, especially amongst seniors, and particularly for those who volunteer at least 100 hours per year. Potential outcomes include a sense of self worth and accomplishment, life satisfaction, general functional ability, reduced blood pressure, enhanced immune system, less incidence of heart disease, lower rates of anxiety and depression, decreased insomnia, speedier recovery from surgery and increased longevity. The findings appear to hold even when controlling for other factors such as previous health conditions, age, race and gender. (Swinson, 2006; Grimm et al, 2007; Connors, 2008)
In 2006, 36% of the population of our province was aged 50+ (www.communityaccounts.ca). With an ageing population, baby boomers retiring, and current volunteers with nonprofit organizations in rural communities complaining of burnout and a need to recruit new leaders with the right skills (Rowe, 2005; CSC, 2009), the time seems right to find ways to bridge the gap between those already involved and those who are not. We need seniors themselves to help organizations figure out how they might use the skills and interests of older adults and how to attract and retain more older adults as volunteers.