Our parent organization, the Home Instead Senior Care® network, recently performed research on senior volunteers and found some truly interesting facts about what makes volunteering enriching and fun for people in their golden years, especially in Minneapolis.
Minnesota seniors who have learned how to give of themselves in a sustained way had some secrets to share about how to enjoy community service as long as possible. In fact 70% of the seniors surveyed said they plan to go on donating their time to special causes “forever.”
Tips from these seniors included the following:
1. Find something to be passionate about. What have you always wanted to do? What special causes really make your heart sing? Whether it’s helping to feed the homeless at a Minneapolis shelter, being a docent, helping at a pet shelter or making baby bonnets, there is something for everyone and every passion. Finding the role that really tickles your fancy is the key to keeping it interesting.
2. Find a cause where there is a real need. In this Minnesota economy, as you might guess, that is a very easy thing to do. Not only are there more people in need today than ever before, but non-profit and community service organizations are more taxed than ever too. The Corporation for National and Community Service conducted a survey in 2009 revealing that 80% of nonprofit and AmeriCorps organizations were feeling fiscal stress.
Some great resources exist locally and nationally to find the greatest need, including:
- Your church or synagogue
- The Local Area Agency on Aging: www.mnaging.org/admin/aaa.htm
- The Caring Effect: www.thecaringeffect.org
- The Senior Corps: www.seniorcorps.gov
3. Giggle your way out a bad day. Like any real job, volunteer roles for seniors are going to have their ups and downs, and one way to handle it is to simply laugh it off. For a quick “laugh fix,” visit CaregiverStress.comSM and “Laugh with Mary Maxwell.” Mary’s delightful perspective on life as a senior will help get rid of the bad day blues!
4. Don’t set the bar too high. We all want things to go well, but sometimes they just don’t. Organizing events, for example, can involve many details from fliers to food, decorations, and the contributions of other volunteer seniors. Aiming for perfection can make the whole event go sour. By contrast, cheerfully taking the good with the bad and making the best of whatever challenges occur will help you and everyone around you “go with the flow.”
5. Be joyful. Just like paid work, a volunteer role may not be worth doing if there is no joy in it. Even the grittiest hands-on jobs should be things that you enjoy or even take special pride in accomplishing. Whether you’re building, baking, organizing, reading or caring for an elderly person in their home, make sure it brings you joy.
6. Shrug off the critics. Volunteering takes all kinds of seniors, and some of them can take the roles and responsibilities of volunteering a touch too seriously. If faced with criticism, shrug it off – especially if it is a one time thing. The good news is that tomorrow is likely to be a better day. And if not, there are many more opportunities to explore such as caring for a person with disabilities in their home.
7. Turn the other cheek. Avoiding conflict and side-stepping turf wars has helped many a volunteer to rise above challenges that may crop up from time to time. Remember, sometimes it is best to give up ground to keep the peace, and most disagreements will simply blow over given some cooling off time.
8. Give yourself a break. Do not overdo it. The world will certainly go on if you take care of yourself and your own needs. Dedication is a wonderful thing, but the work you do in your retirement years should not drudgery, and should never supersede your own self care.
9. Ignore negativity. There is “one in every crowd,” as they say. It may be someone who looks for what’s wrong instead of what’s right, or even someone who is envious of all you accomplish. Seek out those who share your interests, have a “team” mentality, and are about the greater good.
10. Need help? Ask for it! If you are yearning to volunteer or you know a senior who is, contact Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis, which employs CAREGiversSM . CAREGivers can help around the house with meal preparation and light housekeeping so their clients can volunteer. What a great way to get out of the house and interact with others!
Need ideas for ways to make a difference? Here is a brief overview of the primary volunteer activities of seniors:
- 47% volunteer with churches and religious organizations
- 16% work in senior centers or other senior-related services
- 10% work in hospitals or healthcare organizations
- 10% work with schools, educational services and youth programs
- 7% volunteer with social services and nonprofit organizations
There are as many ways to help as there are people who want to give their time. Think about volunteering in Minneapolis today. You can make a world of difference!