By Gari Voss
Senior living for citizens over the age of 60 or 65 includes productive activities that can be
accomplished while enjoying a different pace of life. Though there may be some health issues
creeping in, seniors have found that volunteering promotes physical, mental and emotional
wellbeing. Donating time and energy often assists in maintaining and improving physical, mental
and financial health.
Retirement can be exciting while raising the stress level of an individual. Working, whether
in or out of the home, provides a schedule, something accomplished, and often socialization or
feeling part of a group. Free time after paid employment and/or parenthood must be filled, and
long, unproductive days and weeks can bring boredom and uncertainty.
After a lifetime of activity, options for volunteering can be explored. Volunteering is an
important contributor to the wellbeing of the volunteer and for those who benefit from the time
and energy expended. A simple fact is that volunteering affects the social, economic and
behavioral factors associated with good health.
Volunteering has been linked to improved quality of life, stronger social networks, increased
levels of physical activity and lower mortality rates of seniors. Doing for others through
community organizations, religious affiliations or political tasks gets individuals moving and
focused on accomplishing a task.
Stepping out means mixing with others, which builds a social network. As individuals age,
their social networks often shrink, and many seniors are at risk of social isolation which can
bring about aging-related stress. Volunteering benefits the social network and support system of
Satisfaction of contributing to an organization enhances life satisfaction and wellbeing.
Having a sense of purpose builds self-confidence and personal growth. Staying active physically,
mentally and emotionally extends mortality.
At the same time, volunteering is not a money-making proposition. Seniors who volunteer
often donate transportation expenses and contribute needed items. However, even with the costs,
the activity provides psychological rewards.
In Allegan County, there are innumerable opportunities to volunteer time and talents. At
volunteer needs for southwest Michigan are listed. Different talents and experience can be put to
use depending on the volunteer’s background. Across the county volunteers are needed at the
Allegan County Legal Assistance Center in Allegan, Wings Home and Wings of Hope Hospice
in Allegan, Grant Me Hope Thrift Store in Holland, Paws With A Cause in Wayland, Hospice of
Holland, Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy in Allegan, ARC of Allegan County, Allegan County
United Way, Golden Orchards for adults in Fennville, Michigan DNR in Plainwell, Christian
Neighbors in Plainwell, Renew Therapeutic Riding Center in Holland, First Presbyterian Church
lunches or the Congregational Kitchen and Warehouse in Allegan, the Allegan County Animal
Shelter, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, the Old Jail Museum in Allegan, the Linking Center
in Pullman, and the list goes on.
Senior citizens are the backbone of the majority of service organizations across Allegan
County. Whether an individual wants to answer phones, care for animals, feed the hungry or
monitor the environment, there are opportunities. Volunteering keeps seniors healthier as they
contribute their expertise and energy to assisting others.
Seniors volunteer at the Congregation Warehouse in Allegan to open and sort hundreds of pounds of food
each Thursday in preparation for Friday pickup by county food banks. Without senior citizens,
organizations across Allegan County would struggle.