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Tips for Volunteers Who Want to Work with the Elderly

According to a recent report by Kaiser Health News (KHN), the number of Americans 65 and older is expected to nearly double in the next four decades. Plus, those who volunteer to help seniors experience tremendous benefits. Volunteers who regularly work with aging Americans are happier, more confident, and even live longer.

If you are interested in reaping the benefits of volunteering to help our aging population, follow these tips to make it happen.

Play to Your Strengths

Don't force it. Much like parenting, volunteering works out best if it is something you approach with an open mind and with a genuine desire to help, connect, and learn — not if you approach it as a chore. Keep your spirits up by playing to your strengths.

There are several organizations that will work with you to find the volunteer opportunities that best suit you. For example, programs like Elder Helpers allow volunteers can sign up for any number of services, including reading to seniors, running errands for them, or helping them around the house. Brainstorm what activities you would genuinely like to do, and work with a charitable organization to do those specific things.

Pay Close Attention

Depending on the nature of your volunteer work, the seniors you volunteer with may or may not be as alert and responsive as the average person. Pay close attention.

Experts reveal that others base a full 93% of their first impression of you on your tone and body language — and with good reason. There is a lot of science to back it up. Use that science to your advantage.

When you are volunteering with seniors, pay close attention to their facial expressions and body language. Look out for indications that they are uncomfortable, tense, or at ease, and continue or discontinue conversations and activities accordingly.

Learn

What seniors are capable of and what they are passionate about runs the gamut. Take the time to get to know the seniors you will be regularly interacting with, and take that knowledge to heart. Find out their interests, and find out what skills they have. Learn about any physical or cognitive limitations they may experience, and investigate whether there are ways to modify activities to make them possible.

While over half (52%) of senior living residents have some cognitive decline, they can easily continue to enjoy some of their favorite activities, like gardening, reading, writing, sewing, and woodworking.

What Can Seniors Do to Give Back?

Notably, studies show that volunteering with seniors is not only beneficial for the general population, but for other seniors as well. If you are an American aged 65 and up and have the time and resources to volunteer, do it. Some of the best opportunities include leading or facilitating support groups, raising money, and/or helping seniors with appointments, errands, and chores.

In the past year, 47% of COVID-related deaths in Alabama occurred in nursing homes. This may be a difficult thing for the average person to relate to. If you are a senior in a nursing home or a senior with friends and family members in affected nursing homes, volunteering to lead a support group about COVID-related deaths can be a tremendous help — as can volunteering to lead a support group about chronic illnesses can help if you, too, have suffered or currently suffer from a chronic illness. Likewise, raising money for a cause, like a disease or an ailment that you or a loved one is living with, can help give you a sense of purpose.

Volunteering benefits everyone. It benefits the people getting help as well as the volunteers providing it. Use the tips above to get your foot in the door and start volunteering with seniors today.

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