By Ron Mori
The old course of life where your “retirement” years meant slowing down until you stopped altogether — those days are gone. Good riddance! Today’s “retirees” don’t want to be limited, labeled or defined by what they can’t do. The want to grow, learn and discover what they can do.
At AARP, we were a little surprised but very happy to discover through our research that the desire of our elders these days to be involved and contribute their time to our communities is as strong, or maybe even stronger, than that of prior generations. But — and this is a big “but” — they have time constraints and other commitments that many of their elders never had.
To ensure that we would retain the capability to recruit even greater numbers of 50-plus volunteers for AARP and for many other causes, we launched “Create The Good,” an initiative that makes opportunities to volunteer even more flexible and accessible. Our mantra is, “Whether you have 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days,” there are many ways you can make a difference.
The name “Create The Good” was inspired by a quote from our founder, Dr. Andrus, who said: “The challenge is to live up to our better selves, to experiment, to explore, to change and to grow, and by doing so, to help create the good.”
AARP launched the website www.createthegood.org to offer people a wide range of tools and resources for serving their communities. In addition to opportunities for volunteering with AARP, you can search for a host of volunteer opportunities with other organizations in your zip code.
“Create The Good” also is broadening horizons in volunteering by creating, for example, opportunities for people to connect through online groups and social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.
Volunteering has many positive benefits.
There is mounting scientific evidence that volunteering can even lead to better health and happiness. That’s right. A Journal of Gerontology study, for example, found that older adults who volunteer report higher levels of well-being. And this positive effect was reported across the lines of race, gender and levels of income.
A Vanderbilt University study also found that volunteer work enhances our well-being in a variety of ways, including happiness, self-esteem, our sense of control over life, physical health and relief from depression. Volunteering clearly helps people maintain their independence, dignity and purpose.
AARP itself offers a broad range of volunteer opportunities. Each volunteer is free to choose how much time he or she would like to give. Most individuals volunteer from two to four hours a week. Volunteers usually work out a regular schedule of availability, but some prefer to be available to fill in as needed.
And AARP volunteers receive specialized training to develop the skills they’ll need to work with AARP members and the community at large. Many volunteers tell us that they also learn a lot from working with other dedicated professionals and volunteers. For some, volunteering at AARP has even lead to a new career.
Some of our most successful volunteer activities and programs have included:
- AARP’s Advocacy and education campaigns around critical state and federal legislation
- Our Tax-Aide program, which provides free tax preparation and filing
- The Driver Safety Program, which focuses on helping older adults refresh their driving skills
- Our Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps older adults find jobs
- AARP’s educator community activities, which help children throughout the country
So, at AARP, your experience really does matter.
Please check out www.createthegood.org.
Ron Mori is co-president of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.