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Why Seniors Make the Best Volunteers

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerApril 6, 2016

The rate of volunteerism amongst Canadians is staggering. Six in ten Canadians volunteer at some point in their lives and volunteer activities equate to one million full-time jobs each year, Statistics Canada reports.

Seniors Make the Best Volunteers

Senior volunteers in particular give more hours than any other demographic group. According to Statistics Canada, “on average, volunteers aged 65-74 devoted the most hours, at 231 hours annually,” while adults aged 55-64 donated 203 hours a year and those 75 years and older volunteered 196 hours a year.

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This trend isn’t surprising, considering that seniors who are retired have more free time to give than any other demographic, and studies show that volunteering benefits seniors just as much as the organization to whom they so generously give their time.

Seniors who volunteer regularly:

  • Experience mental health benefits including lower rates of depression
  • Report symptoms of psychological wellness, including greater satisfaction in life and increased instances of stress resilience
  • Reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Are less isolated and more connected to their communities
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment, purpose and well-being
  • Are more physically active
  • Are able to work with and learn from younger generations
  • Demonstrate that seniors are active, involved and essential to the Canadian communities in which they live

Despite the benefits to seniors who volunteer and the hundreds of volunteer hours that each senior gives on average each year, only 27% of all seniors in Canada are volunteers.

Health issues, low income and a lack of transportation are a few of the barriers stopping some seniors from getting involved.

National Volunteer Week

Still, the fact is that seniors who are able to volunteer are making a huge impact in our communities.

Organizations and nonprofit groups like the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club simply couldn’t exist without the commitment and passion of their senior volunteers. Over 200 seniors in the Hamilton, Ontario area help the club manage their nature sanctuaries, run education programs for youth, and protect endangered wildlife through volunteer initiatives like “Falcon Watch” and annual bird counts.

The Hamilton Naturalists’ Club is just one of thousands of organizations across the country who rely heavily on senior volunteers. Others include:

  • Hospitals
  • Retirement communities
  • Hospices
  • Schools
  • Libraries
  • Community centers
  • Charities
  • Churches and religious organizations
  • Homeless shelters and soup kitchens
  • Animal shelters and sanctuaries
  • Cultural organizations including art centers, galleries and museums

Next week, April 10—16, 2016 is National Volunteer Week.

Make sure to thank the senior volunteers in your neighbourhood who help make our communities a great place to live.

If you know a senior who is isolated, lonely or depressed consider reaching out to them about the benefits of volunteering. Perhaps you can make a difference by providing them with the support they need to get out and get involved in the community. The work they do could change their life, and someone else’s, for the better.

How do you celebrate or thank senior volunteers? Share your stories and suggestions with us in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
Kimberley Fowler
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