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Aging Matters: Volunteering is good for the community, good for you

  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Wanted: Volunteers for a keep-young experience.

What kind of job? Am I qualified? What does it pay?

Not one penny. But the pay-off for those of us who’ve divorced the daily grind, the wage scale is calculated in feel-goods.

Retirement frees us from time clocks, deadlines, workday fatigue of mind or body or all of the above. But once caught up on sleep (does that ever happen?) and bored with TV, we may be left with hours to fill.

Some opt for a mindless, low-paying job — demanding an inflexible schedule. Consider volunteering.

Research, both controlled and anecdotal, proves that older people who volunteer time and skills stay healthier in every way than those who sit at home watching the world pass them by.

Volunteers keep nearly every museum, social service agency or cultural attraction running. Some jobs call for muscle; others, technical skills. Some just need a warm body for social contact with clients, patients or visitors.

Art and historical museums depend on docents to guide groups, share information and answer questions. Sometimes, they are rewarded with special privileges such as discounts.

Volunteers can choose to work in their field of interest, doing chores that fit their skills. Example: Botanica couldn’t exist as is without its volunteer corps. Its job range is nearly unlimited. Volunteers greet visitors at the admissions desk, take care of the gift shop and assemble floral arrangements. If an event needs kitchen help, guess who does it. Out in the gardens, they get their hands dirty planting seedlings or bulbs, grooming spent blooms, barbering shrubs. Summertime attendants keep the butterfly house under control and share information. Year-round, the children’s garden or indoor activities holler for help. Special holiday events and displays could never happen without Botanica’s host of dedicated helpers.

Citywide volunteer opportunities range from A (addictions) through the alphabet (hospice) all the way to Z for zoo.

Even the laziest of us need to feel needed. If we can help ourselves at the same time we help others, well — for what better pay could we ask?

Phyllis Spade, 87, has made Sedgwick Plaza her home for the past six years. She welcomes your comments at phylace@yahoo.com.

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