Older Americans Month: Volunteering

older adults volunteering

What is volunteering?

Volunteering is a time-honored tradition in the United States. Volunteers give their time without any expectation of compensation. Volunteer activities may be performed with the core intention of helping others, there is also a common wisdom that those who give of themselves also receive.

Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health and that older volunteers are the most likely to receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities.

In a recent study on the relationship between health and volunteering, researchers found that there are benefits derived from serving.

  • Those who gave social support to others had lower rates or mortality than those who did not
  • Those who supported friends, relatives and neighbors had lower rates or mortality five years later than those who did not provide support.

Volunteer activities can strengthen the social ties that protect individuals from isolation during difficult times, while the experience of helping others leads to a sense of greater self-worth and trust.

Older individuals who volunteer demonstrate greater health benefits than do younger volunteers, due in part to the fact that volunteer activities by older individuals are more likely to provide them with a purposeful social role.

Those who engage in volunteer activities are less likely to suffer from ill health later in life and may be introduced into a positive reinforcing cycle of good health and future volunteering.

In South Carolina

In 2015…

  • 22.7% of residents volunteer, ranking them 42nd among the 50 states and Washington, DC.
  • 903,249 volunteers
  • 34.8 volunteer hours per capita
  • 120.67 million hours of service
  • $3.1 billion of service contributed
  • 50.2% of residents donate $25 or more to charity

In North Carolina

In 2015…

  • 25.8% of residents volunteer, ranking them 29th among the 50 states and Washington, DC
  • 2,012,199 volunteers
  • 29.8 volunteers hours per capita
  • 230.63 million hours of service
  • $5.5 billion of service contributed
  • 47.8% of residents donate $25 or more to charity

Examples of volunteer activities include:

  • Coach, referee, supervise a sports team
  • Tutor or teach
  • Mentor youth
  • Usher, greeter or minister
  • Collect, prepare, distribute or serve food
  • Collect, make, or distribute clothing
  • Fundraise or sell items to raise money
  • Provide counseling, medical care, fire/EMS
  • Provide general office services
  • Provide professional or management
  • Engage in music, performance, or other
  • Engage in general labor

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