RETIREMENT REWRITTEN | The Joys and Benefits of Senior Volunteering
As we age, we learn to lend a hand: one for ourselves, and one for others. Retiring grants us the opportunity to pursue our long-awaited desire to volunteer. Giving selflessly without expectation is admirable. There are numerous ways to serve locally, such as teaching underprivileged students or tutoring online. Seniors possess invaluable knowledge, patience, and wisdom. Remaining socially engaged and active helps prevent age-related illnesses. Volunteering with social groups fosters new connections, sparks conversations, exercises the mind and body, and enhances cognitive function.
Age is no barrier to learning. Novel experiences and activities inspire us to achieve the unexpected. We have a story of a couple who pursued BEd via distance learning after retiring, demonstrating exceptional commitment and diligence. They attended counseling sessions alongside their younger peers, completed internships and teaching practices, submitted assignments punctually, frequented libraries, and sat for exams.
The main point of this story is that senior citizens didn’t ask for any special treatment while taking the course, such as exemptions or postponements. When they studied alongside younger student teachers, they gained a wealth of knowledge. At the end of the contact classes, the student teachers threw a farewell party for the senior citizen couple enrolled in the BEd course, and the couple was invited to give a speech. The senior citizen’s speech was inspiring.
“I am a retired bank manager, and my wife is a retired Senior Accounts Officer. Our two children have settled abroad, and we have enough pensions to sustain ourselves. However, post-retirement, we woke up each day with heavy hearts and burdened minds, lacking direction and purpose. Our sedentary lifestyle and lack of mental stimulation were beginning to take a toll on our health. One day, while on my way to the mosque, I noticed a significant number of children in a nearby slum who were either out of school or dropouts. I realised that these young, promising minds were being wasted due to a lack of guidance and counselling. After interacting with them, me and my wife discovered that many of them struggled with basic foundational skills, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. We decided to take action and teach these slum children. Since we were not from the teaching profession, we enrolled in the BEd programme suggested by the Coordinator of BEd working in Distance Education University of Kashmir, who lived nearby. This course provided us with a comprehensive understanding of child psychology and pedagogical tools and techniques, particularly for children from socio-economically weaker backgrounds. We have a committee in our locality and that had sufficient funds for ceremonial activities at the time of death. One of the elderly women representatives suggested that a part of this fund be used to engage a private tutor and purchase books for these slum children, an idea that was well-endorsed by other committee members. I would end my talk by saying that volunteering is a reaffirmation that our time has not ended. We are now actively involved in making a positive difference in the lives of these young children and helping them build a brighter future.”
Understanding senior citizens’ views on volunteering and how it affects their well-being is valuable in creating strategic plans to recruit future volunteers. In 2020, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine analysed data from 13,000 seniors in the Health and Retirement Study. By combining quantitative and qualitative data, researchers discovered that volunteering for just 100 hours annually (less than 2 hours per week) over four years led to lower mortality risk, less physical limitations, more physical activity, and improved psychosocial outcomes like increased optimism and stronger life purpose in senior citizens.
N. Morrow-Howell’s study on “Volunteering and Older Adults’ Well-Being” also highlights the significance of the topic in this article.
Lastly, an intriguing case study involves 76-year-old CS Narayanan, a Radiation Physicist who taught in the US and now tutors impoverished children in his community to combat poverty and illiteracy. Narayanan instructs English and Math using his laptop to access YouTube and Khan Academy. He attributes the success of his students to their determination to learn despite challenging circumstances at home. Narayanan values inclusivity but does not hesitate to drop students who lack interest or attendance. Refreshing his own knowledge has been a rewarding aspect of his teaching experience.
Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Gerontologist and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK