By: NobleHour Special Contributor Latasha Doyle
Baby Boomers are considered the second largest generation in the American population, accounting for almost 77 million people born between 1946 and 1964, according to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau. By 2029, members of this large demographic will all be over the age of 65, and will represent 20% of the population. As this population ages out of the workforce, more and more Baby Boomers will find themselves facing a “change of life.” This generation is the most educated population in American history, the wealthiest, and have experienced arguably more social movements, wars, and crises than any prior generation. Baby Boomers also have the highest paid employment rates, have experienced the most career growth and success, have traveled the most, and have produced fewer children than their predecessors. Long story short, Baby Boomers have a lot going for them. So what do they do with all of their time when they’re done working? Hopefully, they volunteer.
Why Should Baby Boomers Volunteer?
Baby Boomers span a wide variety of ages, and have reached levels of education and experience that could prove to be a huge benefit to a number of fields. Imagine the resources they could provide to any number of people if they decided to gift their time and energy while sharing their wealth of knowledge. The list of possible volunteer ventures is truly endless, and there is always some skill or service a person has that can translate into volunteering. Picture engineers volunteering their time to build houses for the poor or retired teachers working in afterschool programs. Imagine doctors and nurses helping in small clinics across borders and parents volunteering in daycares or schools. Many Boomers will likely take on the role of caregiver for their aging parents who also fall into the same generation, and will provide their time and energy freely in that way. The gifts Baby Boomers can bestow upon society at large should not be the only deciding factor in their commitment to volunteer. Individuals should also consider how helping others could affect them on a personal level. Volunteering is a personal choice, one that has ripple effects on the individual just as much as the group.
Volunteering is Good for the Soul (and Body).
Change isn’t always easy. Baby Boomers are faced with many changes- good and bad. Whether it’s retiring from an exciting career, becoming a caregiver for elderly parents, or finding themselves empty nesters after raising a brood of children, it’s understandable that it may be difficult to acclimate to these milestones. Studies have shown people who face a wide-open social schedule, a change of pace, or lack in daily structure after a “change of life” often report feelings of loneliness, listlessness and general depression. Individuals, especially men, indicate they feel “useless,” or like they’re expired goods. What better way to combat these negative feelings than by volunteering?
In direct contrast to studies showing the negative effects of retirement, “empty nests,” late-middle age, and other major life events, there have been multiple studies highlighting the benefits of volunteering. Most of these studies indicate that volunteering helps a person in at least one of three ways: improving physical health, improving stress levels, and instilling a sense of community. Volunteers report lower levels of depression, improved mood stability, and a higher sense of well-being. Even more impressive studies have been done on the physical effects of volunteering, with findings indicating that gifting your time and energy leads to decreased blood pressure and longer life. Everyone knows volunteering is altruistic and for the greater good, but the kickbacks are kind of nice too, right?
Volunteering Isn’t Just For Baby Boomers.
Baby Boomers in particular understand the impact that a major life change can have on your confidence, your happiness, and your sense of community. While this phenomenon is not exclusive to Baby Boomers, they provide an opportunity to see the benefits of volunteering at work in “real time.” Essentially any big life event, illness, or struggle a person experiences can be improved by engaging with others in any capacity. Of course, one of the best ways to engage with others is through volunteering! Volunteering can help improve the mental and physical health of people going through a hard time, or who just want to expand their horizons a little.
Representing such a large part of the American population, the Baby Boomers could serve as participants in the biggest unofficial social experiment on volunteering. Think about it: Nearly 77 million people will be retired, and with the life expectancy for Americans now at 78 years of age, most of the Boomers will be mentally and physically capable. This is also the largest group susceptible to developing disease, poor health, and experiencing the mental downsides of aging. What better way to show the world that volunteering is not only beneficial to an individual, but it can also increase social good, share valuable knowledge and skills, and instill a sense of community?
Importance of Volunteering for the Right Reasons.
It hopefully goes without saying that volunteering is an altruistic, selfless act someone engages in to help others rather than just themselves. Studies, and even our own personal experiences, prove that random acts of kindness, “paying it forward,” and volunteering all improve our mood, our daily interactions with others, and our general attitude towards life. Baby Boomers, with such a wide expanse of age groups, experiences and life stories, are just one example of a demographic that is and will continue to enter a new phase of their lives. We all know that change can be difficult, and having a lot of time on your hands can be disorienting (idle hands and all that). This amazing generation has so much to share, and society at large would greatly benefit from what they have to give. Let the Baby Boomers pave the way for a social movement where volunteering your free time becomes the norm, and where everyone benefits from a mutual relationship of giving and sharing our time, skills, and energy freely.
Are you ready to start making a difference in your community? We can help you find the perfect volunteer opportunity to share your time and skills. Start your free NobleHour account today!
Latasha Doyle is a writer and long term care volunteer living outside of Denver, Colorado. When she's not writing or volunteering, she enjoys crocheting, Netflix marathons, and planning her next trip.