For people living with a disability or older adults who live alone, maintaining a feeling of connectedness with the community is important. It helps prevent feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression. One way to help stay connected is through volunteer service. In recent years, the National Service Organization has linked the number of hours volunteered with positive health benefits. The more hours a person volunteers in a year, the more likely they are to stay mentally, emotionally and physically fit.
How Volunteering Improves Health
The Health Benefits of Volunteering report showed just how important donating your time to help others can be:
1. Volunteers have higher rates of personal satisfaction and lower rates of depression.
2. Giving back to the community increases self-esteem which in turn helps to improve self-worth and happiness.
3. Volunteers live longer. That includes volunteers who live with a chronic or serious illness. These volunteers say they receive as great or greater benefit from their volunteer work than they do from medical interventions.
4. States with the highest rates of volunteerism also have the lowest mortality rates and fewest incidents of heart disease.
5. Volunteering as little as four hours a month can have a positive impact on your health.
Finding Volunteer Work if You Have a Disability
There are lots of volunteer opportunities to help those living with a disability or older adults who need some extra support. But how can you find meaningful opportunities if you have a disability or you are an older adult? Here are a few resources that can help:
1. VolunteerMatch.org. This organization helps volunteers and non-profit organizations connect. You can search for local opportunities or virtual volunteer jobs. The site has 29 different categories of volunteer positions ranging from Hunger to Disaster Relief. Each project’s description outlines what the responsibilities are and how many hours a week/month they need help.
2. Create the Good. This AARP initiative matches volunteers with local community based organizations. They also have Volunteer from Home opportunities that make it easier for those living with a disability or an older adult who may not have transportation to help out.
3. United Way. Each local United Way agency maintains a list of area non-profits that need help with special projects or support on a long-term basis. You can visit their main site to find your local United Way affiliate’s volunteer opportunities list.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of volunteering, visit the Corporation for National and Community Service.