Become a Senior Center Volunteer: Learn from Every Generation in Your Community
By Ashley Ess in Helping Hands
Are you looking for a way to give back by volunteering for your community? Engaging in service is not only personally fulfilling, but can provide imperative support for your community's needs. Service projects like cleaning up parks and streams or sorting clothing for a homeless shelter are wonderful examples of ways you can give back. Another way is to become a senior center volunteer.
Why Volunteer with Elderly People?
This service opportunity has a high need for assistance in both practical tasks and social engagement. Many seniors have limitations to their mobility, transportation, or ability to care for themselves. Others may simply be lonely. Widespread needs for help cooking and cleaning, rides to the store or doctor, and simple conversation mean you and your family have the potential to add socializing, care, and practical help to the lives of older folks.
Getting to know a new senior friend is an enormous learning opportunity as well, especially for children and young adults. The stories elderly neighbors tell are often rich with life lessons, history, and humor. When children connect with their elders, it can teach them to treat people at all life stages with dignity and compassion. They may also learn a thing or two about helping someone with a disability, such as blindness or impaired hearing.
Activities that younger and older generations can enjoy together include reading books, making crafts, looking through photo albums, or taking walks (though there are plenty of old timers out there who can still smoke you in a game of tennis or a long-distance bike ride). These interactions really help bring happiness into the lives of seniors and children, and might even inspire a young person to pursue a career in service.
How To Get Started
So how do you become a senior center volunteer? The first step is to establish a relationship with a senior center or assisted living facility where you can be a designated volunteer. Some organizations might have scheduled events like a monthly breakfast or a seasonal concert that you can work on a regular basis and get to know the group through. Others will need extra hands for holidays like Thanksgiving or Halloween. AARP and the organization Elder Helpers are also great places to start your search for opportunities with individual elderly members of your community.
Senior center volunteers can get creative with their service. Many facilities allow pets to visit, so if you have a therapy animal, you and your furry friend can bring smiles to the faces of folks who might no longer be able to care for their own cat or dog. Check with your local organization about their rules for visitors, pets, and large groups.
You can coordinate with a local school to set up weekly or monthly entertainment for senior centers. Students and parents can arrange a recurring concert, game night, theater performance, or movie night for residents.
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Why It’s Good
Volunteering at a senior center or in an elderly neighbor's house can be a valuable experience for all involved, from the youngest to the oldest.