An increasing number of active seniors are finding joy in giving of themselves to assist others.
Volunteering offers many retirees, particularly those who have enjoyed fulfilling working lives, purpose as it affords them the opportunity to show their appreciation by giving back.
According to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, formal volunteering contributes an estimated 743 million hours to the Australian economy.
The figures show that around 5.8 million Australians regularly participate in voluntary work, with around half (54%) of these being women. Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than a third (35%) of the country’s entire volunteer work force is active seniors aged 65 and over, with senior volunteers believed to contribute an average of 411 hours each per year.
In 2017, University of Sydney researchers undertook a project that involved speaking to members of its alumni who were experts in happiness, psychology and pharmacology.
The study found there were a range of different ways volunteering didn’t just benefit other people but improved the volunteer’s own wellbeing too.
It is satisfying
Experts say satisfaction with life is dependent, at least partially, on living a life with purpose and meaning. The report found that volunteers tend to be more satisfied with their lives because they’re interacting with other people, setting and achieving goals, and learning new things.
You’ll feel happier
Volunteering helps give you a positive mindset and can help lift you out of a negative mood, the experts say. Repeated studies have shown that people who give, whether money or time, have been reported to be happier and healthier than those who don’t. It is also a great way to promote strong social networks, which in itself is a good way to connect with your community and build positive relationships.
You’ll feel healthier
Mental and physical health are closely related, so people who are psychologically well tend to be physically well also. Helping others is also related to improved physical health, including weight control, lower blood pressure and relief from depression and chronic pain.
You’ll want to repeat the experience
Chemicals in our brains such as oxytocin and vasopressin are triggered when we help others. Experts say empathy has been shown to elevate these, creating a “feel-good” cycle whereby the more mood enhancing chemicals your brain produces, the more generous you are likely to be.
In summary, the researchers discovered that in addition to giving you purpose and focus, volunteering also makes you happier and healthier while exposing you to the opportunity to expand your social network.
It can be difficult knowing where to start when it comes to giving of your time however many retirement communities have partnerships with local organisations and volunteer groups such as hospitals, pre-schools and men’s sheds.
To find out more about formal volunteering, visit GoVolunteer, Volunteering Australia’s national database of volunteering opportunities.
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