By Stephanie Grove, RSVP Director of Essex and Hudson Counties
Civic engagement refers to the ways in which citizens participate in the life of a community in order to improve conditions for others or to help shape the community’s future. We often hear this term used in the context of motivating younger people to become involved, but what about older adults? According to the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS), only 24.2% of US residents over the age of 55 actively volunteer. Older adults are arguably the most experienced and knowledgeable cohort of people out there. With years of involvement in work settings, caring for children or grandchildren, being neighbors, friends and supporting each other in the community, older adults can be assets to any community.
We all know that volunteering can be a great way to keep skills sharp, develop new talents, make friends, get exercise, or get that overall good feeling from giving back, but new research is emerging showing us that volunteering is so much more. Studies released by CNCS demonstrate that volunteering leads to better health and that older volunteers are the most likely to receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities. It also showed that those who gave social support to others had lower rates of mortality than those who did not. The very act of volunteering may allow individuals to maintain their independence as they grow older.
To emphasize the importance of civic engagement, Lifelong Montclair has partnered with the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). RSVP is a central hub for volunteers age 55+ to review and be matched with a local volunteer opportunity. RSVP provides the support of a trained volunteer coordinator to match each person with an opportunity that meets their goals, interests and availability.
In Montclair, RSVP has opportunities for volunteers to:
- visit homebound seniors
- assist at senior day programs
- tutor low-income children
- work in community gardens
- prepare and serve food in soup kitchens
- support programs that find affordable housing for struggling residents
Civic participation not only benefits the individual, but helps our entire community continue to grow into an ideal place for people to age. In NJ alone 65.5% of residents engage in “informal volunteering”. Residents provide personal care for family, help neighbors in times of crisis, drive friends to doctor appointments, watch each other’s children, etc. Caring for one another is at the root of any thriving community. Now just imagine the impact older adults could make in Montclair by lending their experience and knowledge to the community through volunteer service. Providing services such as visiting homebound seniors, delivering meals to disabled residents, helping low income residents find affordable housing, tutoring children who are struggling in school and so many more could strengthen Montclair as a whole. A few hours a week could be all it takes to make a difference.
To learn more about RSVP and ways to give back in Montclair, contact the RSVP Director Stephanie Grove at 973-637-1766 or . You can also visit RSVP at www.jfsmetrowest.org/RSVP or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RSVPEssexHudson.