Volunteering: Feel Good by Doing Good

by Carmel Ferrer

Volunteering with AARP Foundation - Meal Pack Challenge - Memphis, TN

Here’s a pop quiz: What’s a great way to prevent isolation while also contributing to your community? If you said volunteering, you’re right.

Volunteering has physical and mental health benefits. It also increases social connections, boosts self-confidence, reduces stress levels and decreases the risk of depression. In helping others, we help ourselves.

Addressing a Bigger Issue

AARP Foundation’s Summer of Service to SeniorsSM is one way to get involved in your community through volunteering. The three-month series of meal packing events kicked off on June 3 in Memphis, where nearly 1,850 enthusiastic volunteers of all ages packed more than 500,000 meals for struggling local seniors. After packing another 500,000+ meals in Denver at the beginning of July, we’re off to the Twin Cities and Washington, D.C., with the goal of packing an additional 2.5 million meals to feed low-income older adults. The Summer of Service to Seniors is part of AARP Foundation’s larger effort to increase economic opportunities and social connections that help prevent and reduce senior poverty.

For a startling number of older adults, poverty is a fact of life that threatens to put the American Dream out of reach. More than 10 million adults age 50 and older — 10 percent — live below the poverty line. With poverty comes food insecurity. Being without dependable access to enough affordable, nutritious food means that many people age 50 and older don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They are making impossible choices between putting food on the table and buying medicine or paying the rent.

Seniors who are food insecure are 50 percent more likely to have diabetes, 60 percent more likely to have congestive heart failure or a heart attack, and three times more likely to suffer from depression. In other words, hunger is a health issue. So is isolation; studies show that the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Get Involved: Volunteer Today

The Summer of Service to Seniors addresses both problems. Meal pack events are festivals of giving and caring that draw families, neighbors, co-workers and communities together. They’re also fun, with music and entertainment — and anyone of any age or background can participate. Volunteers have an extraordinary opportunity to give of their time and their hearts to those in need, and to help alleviate isolation and its negative effects.

To register as a Summer of Service to Seniors volunteer, visit mealpackchallenge.org. If you don’t live in the Twin Cities or the D.C. area, visit createthegood.org to find volunteer opportunities in your community.

Wherever you live, there’s someone who needs your help. So get out there and lend a hand!

 

Resources:

Meal Pack Challenge — Register for a Summer of Service to Seniors meal pack event
Connect2Affect Directory — Search our directory to find programs and services near you
Create the Good — Find an AARP Foundation volunteer activity in your community
Volunteer Match — Find volunteer opportunities near you

 

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