Volunteering Enhances the Well-Being of Older Adults

March 28, 2024, Department, by Bryn McCornack

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Volunteerism is an important part of the culture in Newport, Oregon, as it is in many rural towns. It is a principle that binds us together. Within Newport’s aging community, the benefits gained from sustaining an environment promoting social interaction through a variety of activities has been profound, and our older adults’ participation has been primary, both as providers and as recipients. Having a staff of one and a part-time clerk, the Newport 60+ Activity Center, part of Newport Parks and Recreation, offers opportunities for, and depends greatly upon, volunteerism.

Engaging Older Adults

I began my association with the center first as a student in an exercise class seven years ago, followed by the start of my own “volunteer career” as a substitute instructor for SilverSneakers® classes. Also around that time, the center began a Walk With Ease program, and I was certified to facilitate the class. During the next few years, I found additional volunteer opportunities at the center and in the community wearing a variety of hats: working as a member of the 60+ Activity Center Advisory Committee, the Newport Park System Master Plan Advisory Committee and the Newport Transportation System Advisory Committee. I also worked as secretary for the Friends of the Newport Senior Center, a facilitator at Death Cafe events, and as a Better Bones and Balance instructor. I also initiated an exercise program, called From Broadway to Ballroom, where class members learned everything from hula to salsa to choreography from Broadway shows.

During each of these volunteer activities, I met many fellow seniors in the Newport area and learned a great deal about the various challenges these important members of our community face. This led to my own efforts to focus on how the medical community and community-based organizations might work together to dramatically improve the mental and physical health of our population. Specifically, I believe together we are uniquely positioned to counter isolation and improve the physical health of our older population through programs designed to improve strength, balance, mental acuity and more, while recognizing how age-related fears and a lack of self-efficacy impact the mind and body. The need to address these concerns has increased in magnitude with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and, as with so much of the above, NRPA has been instrumental to our success by providing training materials and support to many of these programs.

In 2023, the 60+ Activity Center logged 9,723 volunteer hours. Volunteers helped to prepare and serve 250 free meals in our dining room on Thanksgiving; held a health fair and supported the vaccination clinic facilitators; ran our gift shop; supported free events, such as the Palentine’s Day dance, tree trimming sing-along and monthly birthday celebration lunches; and facilitated 123 fitness, educational and social programs.

As volunteers representing the 60+ group, we are highly invested in the support of our center. And, I am in complete agreement with the saying, “If we change one life, we change the world forever.” If you have an opportunity to volunteer, I hope you’ll jump at it!

SEE ALSO: Conservation Inspiration: A Class for Older Adults to Engage in Action, Kärin J. Kupka, LCSW, Parks & Recreation, December 2020, Vol. 55, Iss. 12; Senior Centers: Reimagining Aging and Exploring New Opportunities, Lesha Spencer-Brown, MPH, CPH, Parks & Recreation, September 2019, Vol. 54, Iss. 9; Using Virtual Volunteering to Engage Diverse Communities, Tony Richardson, Parks & Recreation, April 2021, Vol. 56, Iss. 4.

Bryn McCornack is a Volunteer and Advocate for the Newport (Oregon) 60+ Activity Center.