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Senior Volunteers Giving More Than Time, Home Instead Senior Care Survey Reveals

Sandra Campbell - Senior Volunteer

While senior volunteers are rolling up their sleeves to build houses and feed the homeless, turns out they are doing much more. A majority of older volunteers put their money where their time is by helping to boost the coffers of the organizations where they volunteer.

Omaha, NE—Volunteering for the local hospice was a logical fit for Sandra Campbell of North Jackson, Ohio, when she retired from her career as an oncology nurse. So, too, was the hands-on support that she has provided hospice patients in her area for the past five years.

But Campbell, now 71, doesn’t stop there. She makes and donates quilts to the Oncology Fund for Outpatients to raise money to help cover the extra costs of cancer patients. “I love making things for the oncology care fund that donates to patients for gas and groceries. I have donated a lot to them.”

Campbell is one of many senior volunteers willing to put her money and resources where her heart is. According to research conducted by the Home Instead Senior Care® network, a majority of senior volunteers donate financially to the organizations where they volunteer.

And the help couldn’t come at a better time. In a survey released in July 2009 by the Corporation for National and Community Service, one of every three organizations reported increasing its reliance on volunteers to cope with the economic downturn between September 2008 and March 2009.

The survey—Volunteers and the Economic Downturn—revealed that 80 percent of responding organizations experienced some level of fiscal stress between September 2008 and March 2009. Nearly 40 percent of those organizations said the stress was severe or very severe.

“If anything, the recession has pointed to the increased need for volunteer support,” said Dr. Erwin Tan, director of Senior Corps whose organization is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

“As unemployment rates have escalated, and the economy weakened, there are more people in need,” noted Tan, who serves as the expert U.S. source for the Salute to Senior ServiceSM program. “One might logically think that this means fewer people will be able to volunteer. We haven’t found this to be true. Even during a recession, people seem to inherently understand that there’s always someone in greater need than themselves. So, while they might give less money, they are still willing to give of their time,” he said.

The most recent data from the Corporation for National and Community Service indicates that one of four Americans 55 and older—that’s 18.7 million people—makes a positive impact on their local communities through volunteering. Between 2008 and 2010, these adults contributed more than 3 billion hours of service per year in their communities. The economic benefit of their service to communities totaled more than $64 billion.

“The biggest motivation for volunteering, particularly for seniors, is to make a difference,” Tan said. “And it’s easier to make a difference when seniors know so many are in need, including their own neighbors. Research tells us that, even in good times, people of modest financial means often give more than people with greater wealth. This is especially true when they are already committed to a cause.”

Interested seniors can learn more about where to volunteer and how to volunteer for a worthy cause at the Salute to Senior Service website.

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