Benefits of Volunteering At Ages 55+
Written by Dana Klosner
Volunteering has benefits for everyone, but volunteering over age 55 can lead to a better quality of life. This new life chapter brings changes—your kids may move out, you may be considering retirement soon—which can lead to more time on your hands. You could lose your sense of purpose without a job, and you might find yourself lonely without demanding teenagers around the house.
What you don’t want to do is sit around watching too much TV and eating junk food. Experts say it is important to keep moving, keep socializing and keep learning new things. The good news is volunteering for meaningful activities and organizations could be the answer. But what is the first step?
When you choose to become a volunteer, you should look for an organization you are passionate about. Do you have a hobby you had to give up because you didn’t have the time? Is there something you always wanted to learn? Now’s the time to do it.
If you love animals, the local rescue shelters may need help. If you are an avid reader and love kids, you may want to become a volunteer reading tutor with a school or library. And if you want to help people when they are in a time of need, you could volunteer for a hospital such as Torrance Memorial Medical Center.
Volunteering can serve to give you a fresh focus and new goals. Charles Arnold, 75, of Wilmington is a stroke survivor who has completely recovered and now volunteers in the medical center’s Stroke Visitation Program. Prior to his stroke and subsequent retirement, he was a basketball coach at the high school and college levels. He is no stranger to encouraging people to give it their all.
Charles was apprehensive about hospitals before his stroke at age 60. In fact, it was his first time in any hospital. Now he encourages people to seek medical attention as soon as they notice something is wrong. “When I walk in and tell them I had a stroke, they are immediately comforted. I bring joy to them. They see me walking and they know they will be able to recover.”
Charles encourages people to be strong and listen to what the medical staff is telling them about why they had a stroke and changes that can prevent another one. Survivors are grateful he takes the time and inspires them to work hard and change their lifestyles.
Anne Hirata, 61, of Torrance started volunteering when her kids headed off to college. Not one to sit around, before the pandemic she volunteered in the ER. She changed sheets, restocked materials and made patients and visitors more comfortable by taking them blankets and water. Sometimes she would just sit and talk with them to make their time a little more bearable. These days she can be found in the inpatient pharmacy, where she helps with the tube system that sends medications to the floors where they are needed.
Mimi Brody, 94, of Torrance has been volunteering with Torrance Memorial for more than five decades. She started when the hospital was a small, 40-bed facility in another building. After decades of working three shifts a week in many different departments, she became the chairperson of the special events committee and a member of the board for the Volunteer Auxiliary. She was a young single mom working full-time when she started volunteering in the gift shop on Sunday mornings. It’s the hospital’s community feeling that keeps her coming back.
Enlarge Your Social Circle and Keep Your Mind Active
As a volunteer you can meet like-minded people, which can lead to solid friendships. Older volunteers work alongside younger volunteers and can learn new skills, like computers. The younger generation can learn important life lessons from their elders. Many volunteering opportunities bring new, unique challenges, and you can keep your mind active by learning a new skill.
Stay Physically Active
Volunteering keeps your body moving. Whether it’s walking dogs, cleaning beaches or escorting patients in their wheelchairs when they leave the hospital, volunteering is a great way to get your steps in.
Find a New Purpose
Before you know it, you may find you have new goals and accomplishments. You might want to help grow the organization or collect the most donations. Or you could climb the volunteer ladder and become a member of the board. You may even be named volunteer of the month or be highlighted in your group’s newsletter.
“There’s an intangible benefit to volunteering,” said Mary Matson, Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s director of volunteer services. “Our volunteers help people in need, and they have an impact on our staff. When they give, they receive.”
Learn More About Volunteering at Torrance Memorial