In 2014, 1 in 4 Americans volunteered through an organization and two-thirds helped their neighbors last year. The age groups with the highest median hours among volunteers are ages 65-74 (92 hours) and those 75 and older (90 hours).
These adults help others — but are also leading more active lives because of their volunteering, and studies are showing both physical and mental health benefits for them because of their participation. These include:
- Lower mortality rates
- Lower rates of depression
- Fewer physical limitations
- Higher levels of well-being
Benefits from volunteering were found to be higher than those from other demographic categories, including income levels, years of education or marriage. Volunteering seems to be especially useful for people enduring a life stress or those who are at risk for isolation and loneliness, giving them a sense of renewed purpose.
Volunteering projects can range from working in a community garden to helping children or adults improve their literacy, knitting scarves or crocheting afghans for those in need to providing pro bono services using skills gleaned from professional careers. So, how do you find the right opportunity? Check out these volunteering resources for older adults.
Greater Cleveland Volunteers
Volunteer opportunities are sometimes obvious, such as when a person’s place of worship asks people to serve food to those in need. If you want to volunteer but are unsure of a good fit, consider the Greater Cleveland Volunteers as a resource. This group recruits adult volunteers and helps match them with more than 100 local nonprofit organizations, based on the person’s interests, skills and availability.
You can enroll online. Because the majority of nonprofits conduct interviews, reference and background checks — and often provide training — it may take anywhere from two weeks to three months before the volunteering actually begins. You can find open volunteering opportunities here.
Highlighted programs on their website include:
- Cleveland AARP Foundation Experience Corps tutoring program that helps children in kindergarten through third grade in the Cleveland schools
- Cuyahoga County RSVP program that focuses on healthcare access, providing disaster services, housing and job preparedness and much more
- The Players, a volunteer theatrical group that performs original plays that deal with aging issues
City of Dublin Volunteer Opportunities
The City of Dublin offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for eager volunteers — from the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium — there’s something for everyone.
HandsOn Northeast Ohio and HandsOn Central Ohio also provides volunteering opportunities and you can enroll online. You must attend an orientation (they will come to your place of worship, office and so forth to provide group orientations) and then sign up for volunteer opportunities. One advantage to this program is that you can rotate where you volunteer, so you obtain a variety of experiences and can help many groups in need. Projects often take two hours per month.
If you live in Lorain County, the Lorain County Volunteer Connection might be a good fit. It’s a strategic partnership between HandsOn Northeast Ohio and the United Way of Greater Lorain County. Projects are of two types: ongoing volunteer-led projects and one-time days of service. No orientation is needed for National Days of Service, such as those on Make a Difference Day, Martin Luther King Day and the like. This organization is also looking for volunteer leaders who can lead a project after training and who can commit to leading four to six of them per year.
Cincinnati Volunteer Opportunities
If you’re in southern Ohio, there are a variety of opportunities available. Volunteer at the Cincinnati Museum Center where you’ll get the chance to experience children’s museums, natural history museums and art museums. GiveBackCincinnati offers more than two dozen volunteer opportunities annually.
You can search for volunteer projects based on your location using VolunteerMatch.org. At the time of writing, 52 opportunities were available in and around Cleveland, ranging from transporting cancer patients to medical appointments to providing business mentoring to small businesses. VolunteerMatch also has opportunities available in the Columbus and southern Ohio areas. Some are on-site volunteering opportunities, while others can be handled online. You can work with youth, older adults, veterans and others.
Here’s to volunteering!