Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

What are the altruistic benefits of volunteering with seniors?

April 18, 2022

What are the altruistic benefits of volunteering with seniors?
Last week, we tackled the elephant in the room when it comes to volunteering with seniors. 

We now know the space between feeling uncomfortably awkward and connecting with a senior is blessedly small. We understand that the need for authentic connections with the fastest growing population is great.

Today, I want to discuss the altruistic benefits that a volunteer receives when they spend time with a senior. Service should, of course, be about giving back. It should be about giving glory to God if you’re a follower of Jesus. 

But if you’re going to commit to a type of service, it should be a positive experience, too. It should make you feel good. Our most loyal Heart2Heart volunteers know that connecting to an older adult is at least as rewarding for them as it is for the senior. 

The most common protest I hear from potential volunteers is, “I don’t know what to say, and I don’t know what to do.” I promise you, as I promise them: It’s the easiest thing you’ll ever have to do. 

Simple questions about the person’s life can be so powerful. One question can create an hour of conversation. The stories are so rich. 

Here are some great examples: 

  • What was your first car?
  • What was the price of gas when you were 15?
  • What kind of music did you listen to? 
  • How did you listen to music? 
  • How do you feel about technology today?
  • What did you do to have fun when you were younger?

In talking with a senior, you’re able to interview someone and just ask questions to learn rather than reading it from a book. You’re hearing history from the source.

With each answer, you actually get to hear a part of history. We can’t forget there are people who are still alive who survived the Holocaust. You can talk to people who were active in the Civil Rights movement. Veterans can still tell you stories about fighting in World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam. 

In talking with a senior, you’re able to interview someone and just ask questions to learn rather than reading it from a book. You’re hearing history from the source.

If you dig deep enough, you’ll find something in common in your experiences. Or maybe you’ll gain a new interest, like the lost art of knitting or crocheting. 

Perhaps you’ll gain a new perspective. Hearing how an older woman describes her relationship to their husband can shed light on your own relationships. Hearing the struggles that some people went through as immigrants from different parts of the world can give you an appreciation of your own family.

There’s a selfish benefit in talking to people who had a front row seat to history. It’s an interactive experience that enhances your daily living. 

Spending time with an older person can teach you kindness and patience. Their experiences can expound what it means to love selflessly.

Then, the next time you see an older person, you have a newfound appreciation for them. 

Next week, I’m going to cover the easiest ways to start volunteering with seniors. But if you’re ready to dive in now, we have a wide variety of opportunities. Join us!

Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida. He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master's degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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