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Volunteering as Self-care, “What a Novel Idea? posted Nov 16, 2017

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Co-author, Takira Johnson

Retiring, especially when your identity is connected to your livelihood, can be a difficult transition. Initially, for some of us, it sounds good not to have to go to work. However, for some  others our careers have become our identity and without our career-identity, we don’t recognize ourselves.  Because for at least 25 to 30 years, we had attributed our value and purpose to being a professional, contributing our expertise within the work-a-day world. We had grown accustomed to being a significant part of that community. But, upon retirement, we were left to find fulfillment in other ways, which may be why many of us return to work.

Retiring is a critical transition to make, partly because this very active generation is accustom to having a raison d’etre— we needed something for which to live, and often to protest. So retiring has had the potential for leaving many Boomers even more vulnerable to failing health, being lonely, and worst, feeling useless.  But wait! There is a way to protest the undesirable effects associated with retirement: giving back by volunteering or joining a cause or to a community might be the key.

Now, I know some of you are thinking: “Hold on, wait-a-minute, Man! You mean I have to do something for someone other than myself?” The question is an honest one, as there are some data that show that Boomers talk a good game when it comes to volunteering, but the “talk” does not match the “walk”. In other words, Boomers, the official “Me” generation are very good at giving intellectual assent to the value of giving-back but in realty—the real world of doing—they fall short. So my response to that question is “Yes because now you have the time to do something for someone other than yourself.” There’s an upside to this thing, guys. There’s a pitch coming, so keep reading.

Studies have shown that the best way to get through any struggle or personal challenge is to offer help to others.  Many find fulfillment and purpose through giving back.  When dealing with the challenges of life transitions, we can sometimes to feel stuck and lonely and often disconnected and unsure of how to move forward.  We try to go out and do things for ourselves but that doesn’t satisfy our need. It’s not until we set ourselves aside and begin to help others that we start to feel an internal change—the warmth of giving. Then we realize that giving does as much, perhaps more for us than it does the receiver.   Let me put it to you this way. Check it out:

Challenges Aging Baby Boomers upon retiring (This is you )

  • Failing physical health
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Less daily social interaction
  • Fewer responsibilities (Not hearing subbordinates call you Boss, Ma'am, Sir; and no more kiss-ups)

However, if you begin to give something of value to others—your time, skill, presence then there are inherent rewards for you that make this new way of contributing totally worth your time, Dude. Now, check out the physical and mental health benefits. 

Physical Effects of Volunteering

  • Keeps you active
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • increases your life--you live longer

The Mental Benefits of Giving Back

  • Decreases feelings of loneliness
  • Lowers risks of depression
  • Increases sense of purpose, fulfillment, and community

“Whatcha think, Boomers?” Can you see how dedicating yourself to helping other will put you back in the game of life, only this time your identity is not solely tied to “what’s in for you” but what is good for us all?  My hope is that you can see the viability in re-inventing yourself in a way that more directly helps others. And of course, there is still a payoff for you--better health, and, more important, a profound sense of satisfaction, which is priceless my friend.

28850 PointsGold

Dr. Debra LMFT (MT2416)

/ The Relationship Expert / LMFT