Volunteering: Older adults reap the benefits

Volunteering: Older adults reap the benefits

Greater MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors, is coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and brings together leaders from Greater MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Throughout the year, Greater MetroWest agencies have the opportunity to address critical eldercare issues in this column. This month’s article on the benefits of volunteering is presented by Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ.

When we share our time and talents, we solve problems, strengthen communities, improve lives, connect to others, and transform our own lives. By incorporating service into their lives and making a difference in their communities and country, volunteers of all ages can gain a sense of pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment. 

Over the past two decades, we have also seen a growing body of research that indicates that volunteering provides health benefits. This research, provided by the Corporation for National & Community Service, has shown that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates and greater functional ability than those who do not.

Interestingly, comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have also shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits, whether because they are more likely to face higher incidences of illness or because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing. According to CNCS research, “Not only do older volunteers who regularly serve tend to live longer than non-volunteers, but a number of studies also demonstrate that those individuals who volunteer at an earlier point experience greater functional ability and better health outcomes later in life.” 

Volunteering can also lead to greater life satisfaction and lower rates of depression in older adults. 

The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program offers older adults a practical way to reap the benefits of volunteering. RSVP is a comprehensive community service program designed to mobilize members of the community who are 55 and older to give back to their neighborhoods through volunteer service. RSVP partners with a large network of local nonprofits to list their open volunteer opportunities. For potential volunteers, RSVP provides a single location where they can review those opportunities and receive the help of a trained volunteer coordinator. This assistance ensures that volunteers are placed in positions that match their skills, desired time commitment, and interests.

Through RSVP, volunteers can participate in meaningful, challenging, and interesting opportunities; meet new people; and make new friends. All services are free and volunteers receive free excess accident, liability, and automobile insurance while traveling to and from assignments. They are also invited to attend a yearly Volunteer Recognition Event and are eligible to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Awards.

Here in Greater MetroWest, two partner agencies of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest serve as administrators of the RSVP program. Jewish Family Service of MetroWest administers RSVP in Essex and Hudson Counties and Jewish Family Service of Central NJ administers RSVP in Union County. If you are 55 or older and interested in volunteering with RSVP in Essex or Hudson County, visit jfsmetrowest.org/rsvp or contact RSVP director Stephanie Grove at 973-637-1766 or sgrove@jfsmetrowest.org. If you are interested in volunteering in Union County, contact RSVP director Nathalie Garcia at 908-352-8375 or ngarcia@jfscentralnj.org.

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