Volunteerism and the Elderly: Boomers Giving Back

There are many gratifying benefits of volunteering at any age. The helper’s high–a good feeling one receives from helping others–can be experienced by anyone.  But it is probably a feeling more appreciated by an older person. Think about it, a retiree who has had a lifetime of work and experience behind them must feel good when they can use that previous knowledge to improve the life of another individual.

Sociologist Erik Erikson theorized that all people go through the same life stages. He labeled middle adulthood as anyone being 40-64 years old.  He labeled this stage of life Generativity vs Stagnation. All of Erikson’s stages involved two opposing possible outcomes at odds with each other. Generativity means  the person feels they have produced something of value to leave behind. Stagnation means the person feels that they haven’t produced anything of value or significance and when they leave this world, they would be forgotten. Simply having children doesn’t bring about generativity.

During the Generativity vs Stagnation stage, people are questioning “Will I produce something of value?” To achieve generativity a person needs to give back to society, and volunteering is a great way to do that.

Benefits for society from seniors volunteering

There are numerous societal benefits in having seniors volunteer in our communities. They have helped out by providing compassion to  visitors for people in hospitals. Retired teachers have helped out younger generations by tutoring them after school. Professionals of all kinds donate their time and services after retirement. This give back mentality has carried then national when times are tough.

WECARE: Seniors Helping Seniors

WECARE stands for Working to Enhance the Care and Resources for our Elders. It is a non-profit program funded by the Americorps and California State University, Fullerton. The idea behind WECARE is to have seniors help other seniors. Today, college students and baby boomers work together to improve the lives of seniors in the Orange Country community. Doing everything from healthy living classes, friendly visits, care giving, etc., WECARE rescues or creates community programs to enable seniors to age in place. Americorps also provides living stipends for their members.

For more information about WECARE please email Ashiya Kerr, volunteer coordinator at akerr@fulllerton.edu . To find out more information about Americorps please visit www.americorps.gov.

Photo credit: San Jose Library

About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder of InsideElder Care and author of the ByFamilies, For Families Guide to Assisted Living. He regularly speaks and advises families about how to improve their aging loved one’s quality of life. Ryan is also the president of SmartBug Media, a content marketing agency that helps companies increase leads, customers and influence. You can read more from Ryan on the SmartBug Media blog or follow him on Twitter.

  • Jo-Ann

    Love this article!

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    [...] Senior Volunteerism | Inside Elder Care — Inside Elder Care [...]

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com Ryan @ SmartBug Media

    Unfortunately, so many people focus on the negative of aging and not the positive.

  • http://twitter.com/VarsityBranding Varsity Branding

    A great article, and with great resources. We find that beyond setting a good example for their peers and youths, seniors enjoy being able to work in fields they may not have during their careers.

  • Ellen Besso

    We (and other volunteers) in Dharamsala, India always said we got far more than we gave, and I think this can be said for most types of volunteering.

    Yes, older people have so much to offer to people of other ages in wisdom & practical skills. I'd like to see more elders working with children too.

    Ellen Besso
    MidLife Coach, Author & Elder Care Expert
    “Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End & Yours Begin”

  • http://www.caring-for-aging-parents.com Caring for Aging Parents

    Great article. Productivity (working/volunteering/etc) is an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle – young and old, able and disabled. One of my clients – a 95+ year old woman living in a senior housing community – is trying to start a group of her senior friends to contribute to the community. She is aware of her physical abilities but still feels she (and her friends) can contribute positively to the community. And she is right. She and her friends are assets to our community and I hope to see their work and desire go to good use.


  • Patrick Roden

    Ryan, I support the idea of volunteerism as a source of meaning making in the lives of boomers and seniors. I wrote a post about it myself that I'd like to share:


    Enjoyed the article,

    Patrick Roden

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