Convince Your Aging Parents to Volunteer

Lending a helping hand to others to foster personal enrichment

By Clare Absher RN, BSN  

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My Mom thrives because volunteering enhances her life in many ways.

Joining the volunteer force may, surprisingly, give something back to your aging parents that they had not even realized was missing in their lives. My 85-year old mother has volunteered for the past twenty-five years at Head Start, Salvation Army, and Hospice. Now she volunteers her time at a local thrift store that funds crisis intervention for domestic violence. My Mom asserts that altruistic volunteerism supplies her with a sense of purpose when she wakes up each day. Her volunteer work supplies her with a much-needed routine and schedule since entering retirement. She also acknowledges that volunteering helps reduce stress by keeping her busy and her mind free of her own trivial worries. She is able to share her expertise as a former interior decorator through designing and organizing the shop where she currently volunteers. She especially enjoys the comradery it offers and has made some lasting friendships. What's more, she declares her fellow volunteers help keep her young at heart and mind.

Volunteering to relieve unwelcome anxiety after parents retire.

After retirement, many seniors find themselves unexpectantly anxious and stressed for a variety of reasons. My mother's onset of anxiety after Dad died is eased considerably by her volunteer work. I witnessed heightened anxiety recently when she was forced to temporarily stop volunteering after hip surgery. Are your folks excessive worry-warts and bundles of nerves with no outlet for stress? Seniors who stay busy with volunteer work find that it is a meaningful distraction and significant stress reducer. Volunteering might be the best remedy for your parents to combat their unwelcome anxiety.

Volunteering to resist loneliness when older parents are isolated.

Many elderly folks have outlived a lot of their family and friends, leaving them very alone. Retirement, along with spending limited time in the company of others, can give rise to loneliness and isolation. Moreover, busy families often have less time for visiting their elderly parents leaving them even more alone. Perhaps your family is trying to juggle demanding schedules causing you to feel remorseful about dedicating less time to visiting parents. Fortunately, your unfounded guilt and parent's isolation can both be countered by persuading them to volunteer in their community.

Volunteering to combat confusion and depression in elderly parents.

Memory problems, disorientation, and depression occur among retired seniors who find themselves with no routine or regular mental stimulation. Has your elderly parent become a couch potato, wasting away the day watching mindless television? Have they adopted a general sense of ennui, perhaps sleeping more than normal? Apathy and lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed is a red flag and may signal depression. In addition, memory issues may surface such as noticing that your elderly Mom cannot remember to take her medications or Dad is forgetful about paying household bills. Losing the comfort of work routines and daily schedules can cause impaired memory, confusion, and even depression. Joining the volunteer force may be just what the doctor ordered to diminish monotony and invigorate your folks mentally.

Help your parents to identify and share their talents via volunteering.

Elderly parents frequently have work experiences, wisdom, and talents that they have not considered sharing with others. Help them to recognize their value and persuade them to let others in on their special forte. My mother is knowledgeable about collectibles which comes in handy pricing items to ensure good value for fund raising efforts. Maybe your Mom is a great cook and can prepare meals for families struggling with the demands of caregiving. Senior Companions is a national program that connects seniors to other seniors and offers respite to families caring for elderly loved ones. Perhaps Dad enjoys driving and can escort other seniors to doctor appointments through Senior Corps sponsored programs. Dad can also contribute his driving skills by delivering meals to homebound seniors via Meals on Wheels programs.

Help your parents find volunteer jobs that match their work experience.

Perhaps your mother is a retired school teacher, and might find her free time is best used teaching pre-school kids to read via local head start programs. Or she might enjoy sharing her creative side by instructing school children in arts and crafts activities at local schools. AmeriCorps is another great volunteering opportunity that plays a vital role in supporting students from cradle-to-career.

Retired builders who can no longer climb ladders or pound nails can still offer valuable consulting through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

Abundant volunteer activities are available for retired doctors and nurses at local health fairs, senior games, and free community care clinics. Around the globe, Peace Corps enable volunteer to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local populations.

Maybe your elderly parent is fluent in a foreign language and would enjoy offering translation skills for students and their parents. Your stay-at-home mom, now with an empty nest, may be keenly valuable volunteering at the local homeless shelter. Animal lovers can reap the benefits of volunteerism, while scoring extra puppy kisses and kitten cuddles, when lending a helping hand at a local animal shelter.

Explore volunteer opportunities to find a good fit for your aging parent.

Help your parents to explore various volunteering opportunities to find where they are best suited. My mother enjoys working alongside volunteers of all ages because she believes that it keeps her in touch with different generations. Your elderly parents might prefer to volunteer among senior peers while others enjoy lending a helping hand to children or even furry friends. Volunteering supplies a needed routine, lessens isolation, and relieves stress. It delivers a sense of purpose through sharing wisdom and talents while fostering new relationships. Joining the volunteer force may, surprisingly, give something back to your aging parents that they had not even realized was missing in their lives. Volunteering can drastically and positively transform the lives of your elderly folks. Therefore, make it your mission to convince them to volunteer in their community.


Clare Absher RN BSN

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with 44 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.

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