| For any of these activities, you will
need written permission from any senior center, retirement
home or nonprofit organization you want to work with. That will
mean you visiting the office in person and saying what it is you
want to do. It may mean you getting a criminal background check and
paying for this check yourself. In fact, all volunteers
involved in your activities may also have to undergo
background checks. Don't let this discourage you; the elderly are
a vulnerable population and must be kept safe!
You also will need to seek any funding you need yourself; the
senior center, retirement home or nonprofit cannot cover costs,
but may be able to accept donations to fund your activities so
you do not pay taxes on any funds you gather. If your project is
going to cost money and you are going to ask for donations, you
will need to have a written budget showing exactly what costs
will be, and a relationship with a nonprofit organizations to
accept those donations on your behalf so you don't have to pay
taxes on those donations.
Ideas for Volunteering With Seniors
You can also try looking through the volunteering opportunities
that are posted to all the major volunteer matching web sites in
the USA for activities related to seniors:
- Recruit, schedule and support volunteers to set up a cybercafe
in a retirement home and recruit and train volunteers to
help new users connect with information and their loved ones.
- Set up a Wii system at a retirement home and train
the residents on how to use Wii for fitness and to maintain
mental agility. A volunteer who will lead the residents in
using the Wii is great too!
- Recruit, schedule and support volunteers to present a
series of movement classes using music and art at local
senior centers for an entire season (an entire summer,
- Develop an awareness program about health issues
faced by seniors (diabetes, arthritis, and, yes, HIV/AIDS,
prescription drug abuse, etc.). Do 20 minute presentations on
each of these issues. Have an expert there ready to answer
questions by the seniors.
- Write, cast, and direct a play, or scenes from a
musical to present at a retirement home or senior
center. Even just a 30 minute presentation will go over BIG!
- Get a drama club to come to the center or campus
and do a skit or series of scenes from plays. Again, even just
30 minutes will be thoroughly appreciated!
- Cast and direct a play of seniors themselves, to
present in a retirement home, senior center or to the
community at large.
- Get a local band to come perform for free. This can
be a marching band, a bluegrass band, a gospel quartet, a
chamber orchestra - at my grandmother's retirement home, they
have an Elvis impersonator that comes every year and the
residents adore him!
- Arrange for local choirs or bands from schools,
community groups or communities of faith to come sing
- Organize a choir of seniors or a weekly
sing-a-long, even for just the summer.
- Create a workshop to discuss personal safety, such
as how to avoid phone, mail or door-to-door scams.
- Interview seniors to create a community display for
a public space (such as your local court house), or a web site
or an online video regarding something in your community's
history: what the area experienced during the Great
Depression, what the community experienced during the Civil
Rights movement of the 1960s, a neighborhood that does not
exist anymore, a civic movement that swept the area at one
time, etc. Notify all local newspapers, local blogs &
local TV about it, as well as your local Department on Aging
and your state Department on Aging. Tweet about it, post about
it to Facebook, etc., and get these seniors a lot of attention
they will absolutely delight in - and help preserve your
area's cultural heritage.
- Video record or audio record seniors singing, and
share it on the Internet via a blog, a Facebook page for your
project, or a web site for your project. I
did this with my grandmother. Recording just one or two
songs a week, posting them to the Internet, and then letting
all local newspapers, local blogs & local TV know about
it, as well as your local Department on Aging and your state
Department on Aging, as well as tweeting about it, posting
about it to Facebook, etc., would get these seniors a lot of
attention they will absolutely delight in - and help preserve
your area's cultural heritage.
- Recruit a group of friends to come to a senior residential
home every day and read aloud the newspaper front page
stories and obituaries to seniors, or from a religious
text (the Bible, the Koran, whatever) or from a book like Chicken
Soup for the Soul. The organization that runs the
facility can help you identify which seniors would like this
and what to read. Obituaries are VERY important to seniors -
they want to know who among their friends have died.
- Recruit a group of friends to escort seniors to the
services of the community of faith (church, temple, mosque)
they belong to. Doing this even just once a month would be
HUGE to seniors.
- Create a community garden for seniors living in
apartments or living in houses with no yard
- Go to flower shops and ask if you could take any
flowers they are going to throw away to a nursing home.
- Help seniors vote absentee before an election, by
bringing them forms and bringing them literature about the
issues or candidates (so they don't have to travel to a
polling station on election day)
- Help seniors volunteer themselves. Work with local
NGOs to create activities seniors could do as volunteers to
help others. These could be activities the seniors go
elsewhere to do, or that seniors could do in their own homes,
apartments or rooms. Or let seniors know about volunteering
for people who sew, knit, or crochet, and for those who want
to make greeting cards for ill children or to USA
military personnel, and help them participate in these
programs. These include:
- Call your local humane society, ASPCA chapter and animal
shelters, and ask if residents could make appropriate
bedding for dogs and cats; if so, help seniors know
about this opportunity, and then drop off what they prepare at
the shelter. There are lots of suggestions online for making
dog and cat beds.
- Organize a day where senior residents who still cook to
make appropriate food treats for dogs and cats, and then drop
them off at the shelter (you need to call local humane
societies, ASPCA chapters and animal shelters FIRST to make
sure they will accept such treats). You can find a variety of
recipes to make treats for dogs and cats online.
- Work with a local dog obedience school to create a pet
visitation program, where trained, screened dogs and
cats are brought by their owners to the home for safe
interactions with seniors. Help set up a pet
therapy program where, once a week or twice a month,
trained volunteers bring pre-screened dogs and cats to the
center to interact with patients. You cannot simply call some
people and have them bring their pets; you must look into
liability insurance, training for the volunteers, a screening
program for pets, etc.
- Hold a spa day, where volunteers give manicures, pedicures,
and facials to residents. Make sure volunteers have experience
giving manicures, pedicures, and facials and know how to be
particularly gentle with seniors.
- You will probably be surprised at how many seniors are
online: my grandmothers are in their 90s, and at their
apartment complex for seniors in a small town in Kentucky,
there are at least a dozen private Internet networks,
as well as an Internet network that any resident can use via
the apartment complex management office. If that's the case at
the residential center you want to volunteer at (just take a
laptop there and look at how many networks you can find, as
well as talk to the office staff), then help create a
private YahooGroup or
GoogleGroup for the
residents and their families, with you acting as
moderator of the group, reading each message before it gets
shared with everyone, to ensure it's not inappropriate.
Encourage residents to share what they are doing on a
particular day or week, or have done - a concert they will
attend, or have attended (and how they felt about it),
something they saw on TV, something they would like to
organize in a common room, a recipe, etc.
- If you do find a lot of seniors in a community are online
(see previous bullet item), let them know about virtual
volunteering / how to be an online volunteer. Be sure to
ask regularly who is volunteering online; a local newspaper or
television station might be interested!
- Help the senior center or retirement community set up a Google
Calendar or a Facebook page to list all of the
events the site is having for residents (blood pressure
measurement, hearing aid cleaning, group exercises, religious
services, book mobile arrivals, Wii gaming afternoon, group
sing-a-longs, etc.). This helps residents to know what's
happening, and also helps their families to know what events
are going on. Be sure this online calendar is publicized in
various ways: via small posters in all common spaces, via
handouts to all family members, etc.
- Become a volunteer with the Long
Term Care Ombudsman Program, which has affiliates all
over the USA. You must be at least 21 and have your own
transportation. To find your local program, go to Google and
type in Long Term Care Ombudsman Program and the name
of your city, or your state. "The most important requirements
are compassion, respect for older persons, and common sense. A
positive attitude, ability to communicate effectively and
available time are important. Ombudsman programs provide
training and supervision in developing specific skills."
Volunteer Centres in Ontario
Organizations Consortium of British Columbia
bénévolat au Québec
If you use my page to create a program or event, please contact
me after you have finished the event or program
and let me know how it turned out, what program you picked,
the address of your blog, etc.
You may also want to review these
resources regarding labor laws and volunteering.
If you feel mistreated as a volunteer, here is advice
for volunteers on how to complain.
Finding Community Service and
Volunteering for Teens
How to Find Volunteering
Opportunities, a resource for adults who want to
Advice for volunteering as a group /
volunteering in a group
Family Volunteer - Volunteering by
Families with Children
You are NOT too young to volunteer! Ways
you can volunteer, no matter how young you are
Advice for Finding Volunteer
Activities During the Holidays
to complain about your volunteering experience.
Using Your Business Skills for
Good - Volunteering Your Business Management Skills, to
help people starting or running small businesses / micro
enterprises, to help people building businesses in
high-poverty areas, and to help people entering or re-entering
the work force.
Volunteering In Pursuit of a
Medical, Veterinary or Social Work degree / career
Fund Raising For a Cause or
Creating or Holding a Successful
Community Event or Fund Raising Event.
Volunteering To Help After
How to Make a Difference
Internationally/Globally/in Another Country Without
Donating Things Instead of Cash
or Time (In-Kind Contributions)
Details on how to quickly fill a community
service obligation from a court or school.
Group Volunteering for Atheist and
Ideas for Funding Your
Volunteering Abroad Trip.
Details on volunteering
abroad (volunteering internationally).
Ideas for Leadership
These are more than just do-it-yourself volunteering - these
are ideas to create or lead a sustainable, lasting benefit to
a community, recruiting others to help and to have a
leadership role as a volunteer. These can also be activities
for the Girl Scouts Gold Award, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award
(U.K.), a mitzvah project, or even scholarship consideration.
Ideas for Creating Your Own
Careers Working With Animals
(for the benefit of animals)
Helping People Address Their
Problems with Plastic
How to mobilize a community to clean up plastic bottles,
plastic bags and other plastic waste from their environment,
and how to reduce their use of such items in the future
© 2010 by Jayne
Cravens, all rights reserved. No part of this material can
be reproduced in print or in electronic form without express
written permission by Jayne Cravens.
Volunteering Guidebook, available
for purchase as a paperback and an ebook from Energize,
or as a paperback
a Kindle book
This book is for both organizations new to virtual
volunteering, as well as for organizations already involving
online volunteers who want to improve or expand their
programs. The last chapter of the book is especially
for online volunteers themselves.