The Link Between Volunteering and Happiness in Seniors

Photo of seniors for the article: The Link Between Volunteering and Happiness in Seniors The old saying “It’s better to give than to receive” is often true, especially for seniors who volunteer and gain as much or more than they give. Giving back through volunteering offers a variety of benefits that can help seniors enjoy longer, happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives while providing a needed service to others.

Volunteering: what the research shows

Happiness can be fleeting but according to the article, “The Neuroscience of Giving,” one sure way to feel happy is simply to give altruistically. Doing for others signals the brain to release three chemicals — dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin — that cause feelings of happiness. In addition, these chemicals can also benefit sleep, memory, digestion, learning, appetite, motivation and more. From another angle, research also shows that volunteering may also improve overall health. A study 2019 study by the federal agency the Corporation for National and Community Service described in the article, “Volunteering Helps Keep Seniors Healthy, New Study Suggests,” found that after two years of service, 84% of Senior Corps members reported improved or stable health, 78% of those with multiple symptoms of depression felt less depressed, and 88% reported feeling less isolated. Volunteering can also help seniors increase physical activity, improve balance and mobility, stimulate cognitive abilities, reduce the risk of dementia, and teach new skills all while improving the lives of others and the community as a whole.

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Finding great volunteer opportunities

Volunteering opportunities exist just about everywhere on earth whether it’s through helping others, sharing expertise or working for a cause. Many seniors prefer to volunteer close to home, but others will welcome the chance to travel to other places to volunteer. Other defining factors might include physical abilities, areas of specialization, and personal preferences. To get started on a search for a great volunteer opportunity, here are a few excellent resources:

  • One of the most used volunteer search sites is The site allows searching by city or zip code and is excellent for finding volunteering options nearby. The site also sorts volunteering opportunities by type to make it easier to narrow a search and lists upcoming opportunities as well.
  • Similarly, allows searches by location and includes filters for in-person or remote opportunities, length of commitment, different causes, skills, interests, and age groups. Those who want to use skills they already have can use this site to investigate possibilities that might otherwise be hard to find.
  • The AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP program through also offers a variety of volunteering options close to home and just for seniors. Among the many possibilities are mentoring or tutoring teens, renovating low-income homes, delivering meals and groceries to the disabled, and other local opportunities through hospitals and community organizations.
  • is another great option, especially for those who treasure our nation’s natural and cultural resources. Among the many volunteering possibilities are helping out at national parks, surveying invasive species, hosting at campgrounds, monitoring historic, cultural and archeological sites, and providing interpretive services at historic National Park sites.
  • Love dogs? Canine Companions depends on volunteers to help them raise, train and deliver assistance dogs to people with disabilities nationwide. With offices and training centers across the country, local opportunities are available but those willing to raise a puppy can be located anywhere.

  • Another excellent way to maximize volunteering within a community is with Habitat for Humanity. This amazing organization works around the world to build strong families and communities one home at a time. Habitat also provides disaster response services and financial education to break down barriers to homeownership.
  • One of the greatest joys in life is the gift of music and for those who want to share their musical prowess, the group is a great choice. The organization connects musicians with hospitals and healthcare facilities where they play and provide the healing power only music can bring.
  • Seniors who love history are needed at the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers program. With both onsite and online positions, volunteers help transcribe and digitize historic document collections, research unlabeled photos with the Archives of American Gardens Project and work on the epic project known as the Encyclopedia of Life Translation Project.
  • One of the first websites to offer digitized books for public use, Project Gutenberg is always looking for people to produce e-books so it’s the perfect choice for those who love literature and enjoy tedious but fulfilling work.
  • Many baby boomers remember the day President Kennedy announced the creation of the Peace Corps in 1960 and today it remains a top volunteering option for seniors. To learn more about how to get involved check out the Peace Corps Volunteering and Retirement page.

Learn more about the independent living lifestyle, download our informative guide, Just the Facts: Independent Living.

Just the Facts, Independent Living Guide

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