Seniors Helping Seniors: Senior Volunteers Set the Bar

Seniors spend more time volunteering than their younger counterparts do as a way to stay connected to their communities. In 2006, a report by the National Seniors Council showed that 16.5 percent of Canada’s seniors volunteered in ways that directly helped other seniors. When you begin your retirement, volunteering can help you ease into retired life with a sense of purpose, particularly when helping out those older than yourself.

Seniors for Seniors is an Ontario organization founded by Peter Cook that pays “junior seniors” just above minimum wage to help older seniors. While not strictly volunteers, the idea of having someone helping you out that’s a bit closer in age is very attractive to both the “junior senior” employees and the older seniors they’re helping out.  Right now between 250 and 300 people are employed at the organization, and those interviewed for this CBC article reported immense satisfaction with the job, viewing it not as a job but as a way to help out.

Non-Profits Actively Recruit Senior Volunteers
Some organizations, like the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta, have put together a program specifically for senior volunteers to make them feel welcome. The Cerebral Palsy Associations initiative is part of the Government of Canada’s New Horizons program, which encourages volunteerism among Canada’s seniors by providing funding to organizations that support senior volunteerism. If you are part of an organization looking to expand its senior volunteer base, this pamphlet from Volunteer Alberta has some great tips on how to do just that.

Offer to Give Someone a Drive
Many communities will have programs in place that will offer volunteer drivers to seniors who need assistance getting around to medical appointments or shopping. These programs usually require a background criminal check, a driver’s abstract and a waiver for your insurance company to sign if you’re using your own vehicle, but once those hurdles are jumped the reward is definitely worth it. Many older Canadians simply don’t live on accessible transit routes or in rural areas where they may have sporadic, but not every day support from family members.

Finding Opportunities in Your Area
You don’t have to go far to find a way to help seniors where you live. Call around to local retirement homes, or look on your town or city’s website for information about organizations that require volunteers. If you live in Calgary you can browse volunteer opportunities online on Volunteer Calgary’s website. If you’re in Edmonton, the Seniors Outreach Network Society is a great place to start.

The best part about working with older seniors is the stories they have to tell, and the eagerness that they have to share them with you. If you volunteer to help out a senior, you may be surprised to find that you aren’t just helping people out, you’re making lots of friends in the bargain as well.