Desmond Tutu, a human rights defender who won the Nobel Peace Prize, once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” In 2015, volunteers participating in the County of San Diego’s Senior Volunteer programs gave countless “little bits of good” to our communities. Over 1,650 senior volunteers gave an “overwhelming” 500,000 hours of service to organizations and communities throughout San Diego County.
People volunteer for many reasons. When surveyed, senior volunteers mention how much their volunteer activity has made them feel engaged and connected with the community. Some want to learn something new, while others want to meet new friends or support something they are passionate about, like children, parks, museums or history. One volunteer stated that he started volunteering because his wife told him to and now he loves his volunteer job.
Recent research has shown that whatever the reason a senior chooses to volunteer, they will also reap health benefits from their volunteer activity. Senior volunteers show a decrease in heart disease and an increase in longevity. Volunteering provides an opportunity to be more physically active and meet new friends. Socialization has been identified as an important element in successful aging. Research also shows that people who engage in volunteer activities experience less depression. One volunteer shared that he recently lost his wife of fifty years and didn’t know what he would have done without his volunteer family.
Senior volunteers for the County are members of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) or the new Senior Volunteers in Action (SVA) program. RSVP is a federal program for senior volunteers, age 55 and older, and has been sponsored by the County of San Diego Aging & Independence Services (AIS) for the last twenty years. More than 200 local organizations benefit from the efforts of RSVP volunteers, who help our community through participation in law enforcement, health care, education, the arts and many other arenas. SVA is a relatively new senior volunteer program created to accommodate volunteers who are age 50 and older and provides an even greater choice of diverse volunteer activities in which to serve the community. SVA was developed by AIS in support of the Live Well San Diego vision for Thriving communities.
Older volunteers have much to give with their unique skills, talents, careers and life experience. Time is valuable and these volunteers give it freely and tirelessly. Seniors who are ready to contribute their “little bit of good” to the community should consider making volunteering a goal for 2016. The senior volunteer team at AIS helps seniors thrive and find the volunteer opportunity that meets their needs, goals and interests. The list of opportunities is long with plenty of variety. Seniors can volunteer in a museum or garden, with children or seniors, delivering meals or teaching, or supporting law enforcement. Some volunteers even choose more than one volunteer activity.
For more information about Senior Volunteer programs with AIS, call (858) 505-6399 or visit:
Story submitted by Linda Hopkins, MAG, Senior Volunteers in Action Program Manager