Volunteer work can be fulfilling and healthful

AGING MATTERS

In Hawaii we live longer and healthier lives than our counterparts on the Mainland, which means that retirees can expect years, sometimes decades, of healthy, active retirement. With that gift of time comes many opportunities for learning, growth and relaxation.

Those who create structure early in retirement fair better than those who have little structure.

Structure comes in many forms, including spending time with family and friends, developing new talents, learning new skills, volunteering for a cause or beginning an encore career.

For those who choose volunteering as a part of their retirement structure, the statistics are promising. Studies have shown that volunteering is related to:

• Fewer depressive symptoms.

• Increased feelings of satisfaction, purpose and connection to the community.

• Longer and healthier lives.

• Better brain health and cognitive function.

• Improved physical health and activity levels.

But the benefits don’t stop at the volunteer:

• Many nonprofit organizations can only function with the help of volunteers.

• Older adults live more independently thanks to volunteer organizations that coordinate friendly visits and daily telephone reassurance.

• Youths play community sports thanks to volunteer coaches.

• Community theater thrives with volunteer actors.

• Family caregivers receive respite when neighbors or friends drive their care receiver to appointments.

• Children gain role models and receive extra love and support.

• Native forests are made healthier by volunteer groups that work together to remove invasive plants.

Volunteers and communities benefit most when volunteer responsibilities match volunteer interests and available time. Answer the following questions:

• What are your interests and hobbies?

• What are you passionate about?

• What organizations have helped you or your ohana in the past?

• What local businesses or organizations focus on your interests, passions or hobbies?

For help in finding volunteer opportunities, consider the following:

Attend a community fair. Most fairs have exhibitors from community agencies that have volunteer opportunities. To find fairs, visit www.calendarmaui.com, the Maui County Government website, and the community events page of The Maui News.

Visit www.handsonmaui.com. This website is sponsored by the Maui County Volunteer Center and includes a database of local organizations that accept volunteers. Browse the organizations or search for specific opportunities. When you find one that sounds interesting, contact the organization to learn more.

Contact Kaunoa Senior Services’ RSVP in Spreckelsville. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program focuses specifically on volunteer opportunities for adults “55 and better.” When volunteering through an RSVP agency, volunteers may receive partial transportation reimbursement, liability insurance while volunteering, and an annual volunteer recognition event. Even though the office is located in Spreckelsville, volunteer opportunities are throughout the entire county. Contact Kaunoa RSVP at 270-7986.

Contact the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension. UH Cooperative Extension is the educational outreach arm of UH-Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. The Maui Office is located on the UH-Maui College campus and provides learning and volunteering opportunities to Maui County residents and visitors. These programs include the Maui Master Gardener Program, 4-H Youth Development leaders, and Powerful Tools for Caregivers facilitators. Contact UH Extension at 244-3242.

Thanks to the volunteers who spend their retirement years serving Maui County! And for those who have been thinking about it — today is the day to find your volunteering niche. Help keep yourself and Maui strong and beautiful through service and community action.

* Heather Greenwood Junkermeier is with the University of Hawaii Manoa Cooperative Extension, Maui Intergenerational and Aging Programs. “Aging Matters” covers topics of interest to the aging Maui community and appears on the third Sunday of each month.

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