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Make a Difference Day October 26, 2019 by M. Celeste Chase, AC-BC, ACC, CDP, CMDCP This day is an unofficial secular holiday or observance focused on community service and volunteer efforts. Traditionally celebrated on the fourth Saturday in October since 1992. All across the United States volunteers perform projects for their community, for individuals in need and a number of charitable organizations. This October 26th millions of volunteers will come together to honor “Make a Difference Day.” This day is observed as one of the largest and most widely recognized days for community service efforts. Volunteers actively engage in environmental tasks, charity fund raising such as bake sales local food banks, donate their time to nursing homes and women’s safe haven centers, and a host of many other activities. Not only to celebrate but to create awareness that people can truly make a difference when joining forces with actions to improve the quality of life for so many individuals. One of the most rewarding things about “Make a Difference Day” is that it matters not the volunteer age or background, we can all help others. We can give back to the communities and profoundly change the world. Senior Volunteer Programs do Making a Difference Older adults participating in volunteer programs will find it extremely rewarding on a number of levels. While there are a variety of groups and places the older adult can choose to support, the choice is often based more so on becoming involved in something that allows the volunteer to feel useful once again. The rewards gained from acceptance while volunteering to help others is immeasurable and as a whole, the wise elder appreciates and benefits tremendously from the experience. Whether it’s within their own nursing home, community center, adult day health center, or assisted living facility there are so many avenues and opportunities for older adults to really “make a difference” through volunteer services. Note: Adults over the age of 55 comprised nearly 36% of the 62.6 million volunteers, with 10% of the volunteers being 75 years old or older. https://www.leisurecare.com/resources/benefits-of-volunteering-seniors/ Volunteering Benefits Volunteering has important emotional and physical health benefits for the volunteer – especially when that volunteer happens to be an older adult. Depending on availability of time and the level of energy your resident possesses, you will find plenty of ways for seniors to experience the benefits from volunteering opportunities. Here’s a list of just a few possibilities and their respective benefits: Children - Teach them well. We all know that seniors are great stories tellers. Pair your residents up with youngsters by holding an Intergenerational Program. Seniors can volunteer during story hour and tell the little ones about history because they’ve lived through it firsthand. Who does not love to hear wonderful accounts of days of the past filled with curiosity and adventure? Additionally, children whom otherwise may not have previous experience with elders will learn to accept those imperfections that come with aging and come to respect and value the elder’s wisdom. Pay It Forward – The resident as a student then becomes the teacher. Plan to kick leisure pursuits up a notch by creating a “resident to resident volunteer program.” This would be one to one or small groups. Encourage those elders that have learned new found skills in technology, crafting, cooking, etc. to share what they have learned with their fellow residents. It is an opportunity for your resident to pay it forward. This is a dual benefiting experience both for the resident sharing knowledge and the resident learning something new. The added bonus it that it makes way for wonderful resident friendships. Supporting the Community - Volunteering for organizations and services gets seniors out into the community and is a great way to instill a sense of purpose and responsibility while also encouraging social engagement and friendships. A recent study of adults over the age of 60 who volunteer reported higher levels of well-being and lower disability than those who did not volunteer. Note: Current regulations specify that community involvement opportunities must be in place within senior care facilities. Where Seniors can Volunteer If you want to volunteer with seniors you can contact a number of services and programs within your local area. If you’re not sure where to go there are many organizations that can help you find a place where your older adults’ services are needed. Here’s a look at some to contact: Elder Helpers National Council on Aging AARP Volunteer Match Volunteers of America Meals on Wheels One Foster Grandparent's Rebound Anna Nelson, 70, a Foster Grandparent volunteer with five- and six-year-olds in Knoxville, Tenn., for the past three years, can attest to the study’s results. “I’m not depressed anymore. My blood pressure has come down. My blood work is now normal. My cholesterol level is down,” said Nelson, one of 500 Senior Corps volunteers in Knoxville. In addition, Nelson said, “I’ve lost weight from being more active with the kids. They get me moving.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2019/03/12/the-volunteering-that-makes-people-55-healthier/#7672e1cde5e8 Note: According to the Corporation for National Community & Service, the most common forms of volunteering are: Collecting, serving, preparing, or distributing food Fundraising or selling items to raise money Engaging in general labor, like helping build homes or clean up parks Tutoring or teaching Mentoring the youth Collecting, making, or distributing clothing No matter if it’s walking dogs at the local Humane Society, building a home for Habitat for Humanity or restocking books at the local library, volunteering keeps seniors physically active. Maintaining physical fitness and an active lifestyle can prevent a number of injuries and prevent or delay the onset of some diseases. Have a topic request or question for Celeste? 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