For many of today’s active, healthy senior citizens past retirement age there is an increased interest in community service and volunteer activities to maintain the fairly busy lifestyle to which they have grown accustomed throughout the years. For seniors living in bustling, metropolitan areas, volunteer involvement is somewhat easier to locate and, in many cases, even local enough to walk to the organization to commit! Seniors in rural southern Ohio may have a more difficult time locating rewarding opportunities as smaller organizations and groups sometimes rely on word of mouth to secure their volunteers rather than media or online advertising. Many seniors may need to drive several miles from their homes to attend training or participate in activities, making rural community service a bit more difficult as well. Many southern Ohio seniors may be surprised to realize that there are likely volunteer opportunities within an easy drive or walk if they know where to look!
Become a friend of your local state park. Many southern Ohio counties have one or more state parks within their boundaries or nearby. While the state parks are funded and supported by the state of Ohio, there are still a number of ways that local citizens can support the park’s natural environment. Most state parks have a volunteer oriented “friends” group that organizes and participates in park cleanup efforts, park activities and events, or acts as liaisons between the park’s surrounding community citizens and government or park officials during times of concern. Check out the Department of Natural Resources for a listing of state parks in your area and seek out the supporting park “friends” through either an online search or via the local park office staff.
Help serve local seniors who are less fortunate. Illness and disability afflict millions of aging adults and rural groups often find it difficult to reach out to those in the community needing regular support without the help of volunteers. Whether you commit to your county’s Meals on Wheels or other such program, or work with a local hospice or social services organization as an aid or home companion, there are a number of opportunities to offer support to other aging southern Ohioans. Begin with a phone call to your county’s Health and Human Services Office or Jobs and Family Services Office. It is very likely that you can be connected to a group that would very much appreciate your time and energy.
Local hospitals often need adult volunteers. Whether you are staffing the information desk or delivering flowers and gifts to patients, there is likely a need for your services. If you have been active in a local, small community, it is likely also that a hospital setting will bring you into frequent contact with old friends or acquaintances-but, sometimes not under the best of circumstances. View a list of Ohio hospitals to search for volunteer positions in your area.
Offer volunteer services to local children. Volunteer at the local library, such as the or with a local school district-both of which often accept adult volunteers as tutors, story time readers, or as help with school events, functions and activities. Tutoring and mentoring is a great way for older adults to mentor and encourage local children while keeping up the skills used throughout a life of work. Check out youth friendly organizations such as the Highland County YMCA or check with your local school district for available opportunities.
Follow a passion or find a new one. If you have a lifelong love of animals, check with local pet rescues or animal shelters in your county for volunteer opportunities. If you spent your professional life as an artist, there may be opportunities at a local youth center providing art classes. Love to cook? Maybe a food pantry or soup kitchen could use your guidance. Build on your interests and abilities in your search for volunteer positions to make sure that the match serves both you and the patrons. Perhaps the Brown County Animal Shelter or the Sugartree Ministry Center in Clinton County has volunteer options that would interest you.
No matter the volunteer opportunity you choose, it is important to follow your heart and participate in the activities of most interest and meaning to you–no matter where you may go to seek them out.