Get Social – and Volunteer
Dave Taenzer (at left) has the kind of voice all technology consultants should have—soothing and calm. For more than two years, the Colorado-based Senior Planet volunteer has given hours and hours of his time, without charge, hosting the most member-led programs there.
Volunteering and Talking Tech
Technology is his thing. “I started playing with computers in 1965,” he says. For Senior Planet, he has given one-on-one advice—how to get that Mac, phone, iPad, laptop working right—and he also hosts Lunch & Learn sessions, discussing how to keep a clean gmail inbox, how to zoom and how to Google and keep tabs on tabs, among other lessons. The retired programmer understands that ”some people are incredibly sharp and pick up the technology,” while others lag. He’s patient with people who need something explained twice…or maybe three or four times.
These days, of course, the in-person instruction has switched to Zoom, due to COVID. And in one way, he says, that’s made him a better consultant. “In person, I’d tend to take the phone” and show someone how to do it, he laughs. “I can’t do that on Zoom.”
Shine on, Dave!
Whatever the venue, real-life or online, “I’m a chronic volunteer,” Taenzer says. Volunteering gives him purpose, he says, and having a purpose is crucially important to him. But besides that feel-good benefit of having purpose and giving back, he has made numerous new friends. “Socially, this has been fantastic for me,” he says. Being able to interact regularly with people has been especially wonderful during the pandemic, he says.
Those who attend his programs agree. Some live by themselves and are even more grateful than others for the interactions, he says. That’s especially true around holiday time, he has noticed.
Volunteering’s good for you!
In his own research on staying healthy with age, Taenzer knows that staying involved in life and expressing gratitude are both important. His volunteer role helps him meet both those benchmarks. “I get a lot more out of this than I put in,” he says.
Experts agree that socialization is a major perk of volunteering, and being socially connected is good for both mind and body. Socializing reduces feelings of loneliness and helps improve memory and cognitive skills, as well as improving a sense of well-being and happiness, according to the experts at Mayo Clinic. People who volunteer regularly—about 16 hours a month—are less likely to get high blood pressure, research suggests. They also had a better sense of well-being and were more active than non-volunteers. In another study, older adults who volunteered about 8 hours a month reported more positive self-perceptions of aging, and less depression.
Volunteer opportunities, virtual or IRL, are easy to find. Besides checking at your local community center, church, synagogue or school, you can try these.
- Volunteer Match.org lists both in person and virtual opportunities, matched to interests. Within Volunteer Match, you can search for minority-specific opportunities, women’s causes or programs catering to older adults, among other categories.
- Idealist.org lists both jobs and volunteer opportunities.
- Catch a Fire matches professionals who want to donate their skills to nonprofit organizations who need them.
If the first volunteer gig you try doesn’t fulfill you, look around for a better fit. Feel free, also, to ask organizations ahead of time what they expect in terms of time commitment and skills. To check out an organization, see Charity Navigator.
Do you have a volunteer tipr or a volunteer expereince you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!
This article offered by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.