Seniors: Volunteer work provides sense of accomplishment, purpose
Ken Logan needs to volunteer.
"I think I'd go nuts if I sat at home," said the 78-year-old Beloit man, who doesn't golf, fish or hunt.
"All I could do was take care of my yard," he said about retiring in 1995.
After two years of boredom, Logan walked into the Retired Senior & Volunteer Program of Rock County office and inquired about volunteer opportunities.
At first, he volunteered a few hours a day. Today, he averages seven hours a day five days a week.
Volunteering gives Logan a sense of accomplishment and joy.
"It just makes me feel good to know I'm contributing a little bit. I get more than I give," he said.
Logan isn't alone.
According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, 23.9 percent of adults age 65 and older and 29.8 percent of baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 volunteered in 2009.
That's up from their 2008 national average volunteer rates of 23.5 percent and 29.5 percent, respectively.
Local agencies that work with older volunteers are experiencing similar increases.
RSVP has had solid growth among baby boomer volunteers the last three years, said Linda Kleven, assistant director.
"Volunteerism among that particular age groups is up about 4 percent," she said.
Julie Cunningham, coordinator of the Volunteer Network, said senior volunteers are continually coming to the United Way program she leads.
She predicts the Volunteer Network will see even more seniors give time as baby boomers retire.
"They will be out in force," Cunningham said. "They want to be out (in their communities), active and involved."
Older adults play such a big role that nonprofits and other organizations couldn't do much of what they do without their senior volunteers.
"These seniors help make sure these agencies and organizations can reach more people and help more people," she said.
They also bring knowledge, ideas and energy to share, Cunningham said.
"They're just really great supporters for all our agencies," she said.
RSVP's more than 1,000 senior volunteersó55 and olderócontribute more than 118,124 hours of service each year at 175 different locations in Rock County, racking up millions of dollars of savings, Kleven said.
If an agency had to hire people to do the work, they would have to pay them between $18 and $21 an hour, including benefits, according to the Independent Sector, Kleven said.
"All of this makes a difference in our community," she said.
Volunteers reap the benefits, too.
"It's a good feeling to give back to the community," Kleven said.
RSVP volunteer Carol Garry, 65, Janesville, agreed.
"When I retired almost five years ago, I couldn't just stay home. I have to get out with people. It makes me feel good that I'm helping someone. Also, I'm a Christian, and I feel like I'm doing God's will by helping others," she said.
Garry divides her average 20 hours a month of volunteerism between nearly a dozen programs. She has registered to get involved in two more and plans to volunteer as long as she can.
"The Lord has really blessed me, and it's my way to do what I think He wants me to do," she said.
Joyce Gray said her late mother influenced her volunteer efforts of the past 11 years. The 77-year-old Janesville woman received a Presidential Call to Service Award for 3,000 hours of volunteering in 2003, but she doesn't personally keep track of her volunteer hours.
"I just think it's important to give back," she said. "It makes a person feel much butter doing something helping somebody else."
BY THE NUMBERS
Volunteers 65 and older nationwide
Volunteers 65 and older, Wisconsin
Volunteer hours 65 and older, nationwide
Volunteer hours 65 and older, Wisconsin
Value of hours served 65 and older, nationwide
Value of hours served 65 and older, Wisconsin
Source: Volunteering in America website/pooled survey data from 2007-08-09