Your parents may have said good riddance to the daily grind of going to work every day, but that doesn't mean they'll be happy spending their retirement reclining in front of the TV or watching the world go by from a rocker on the front porch.
Volunteering can be a great way for older adults to get out of the house, get active and renew that sense of purpose they had when they were working. Helping others offers a chance for them to make a difference in their community and make new friends. When the volunteer service is well-matched with their talents and personal passions, it can also be lots of fun.
Is Dad an accomplished musician? Maybe he could give lessons at a local community center. Did Mom own and operate a successful business before retiring? Small business development centers are always looking for mentors.
In some cases, volunteers can earn special perks. Museum guides and greeters might score gift shop certificates and free admission. Theater ushers might get free tickets to the show. Hospitals often provide volunteers with free flu shots, free health screenings and discounts on things like fitness center memberships.
Of course, choosing the right volunteer opportunity must take its physical requirements into account. Someone who has difficulty walking won't be able to escort theater patrons up and down stairs, for example. Also, some volunteer jobs require several hours of training, and they may ask for a commitment to a minimum number of service hours.
But even if your parents lack the stamina to fill certain volunteer posts, there are lots of other places where they can contribute. The Corporation for National & Community Service has made disability inclusion a key focus of its efforts to promote volunteerism. Its website includes resources for volunteer managers and inspiring video profiles of disabled volunteers.
Seniors with cognitive disabilities can also find meaningful volunteer work. A Pacific University study found that participation in a creative volunteer activity—making greeting cards—helped a group of cognitively impaired assisted living residents feel more confident and empowered. They also derived satisfaction from being able to give back to their community and from the social engagement they experienced through the activity.
Here are three online resources to help your parents find the volunteer role that's the perfect fit for them.
VolunteerMatch claims to be the largest volunteer network on the Web, with close to 100,000 nonprofit organizations in its database.
A division of AmeriCorps, this organization links people ages 55 and older with service organizations and provides training for volunteers. Senior Corps encompasses RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), its main volunteer network, the Foster Grandparents program and Senior Companions, who offer friendship and assistance with daily living tasks to fellow seniors.
AARP's Create the Good
This network specializes in connecting Boomers and older retirees with flexible service opportunities that allow them to pursue a wide range of interests.
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