We often hear from clients about what a difference the volunteer has made to their lives and volunteers report on the unexpected benefits they gain through volunteering. We were interested to see the research recently published that indicated that widowed older adults can reduce the loneliness that results from the death of a spouse by volunteering 100 hours per year, which is about two hours per week.
So let’s imagine a game of Jenga, it is a system of wooden blocks built into a tower and the task is to remove a block, weakening the structure, and placing the block on top without making the tower fall. Translating this to people, if personal support is lost for example through illness or bereavement the individuals own structure is weakened at the same time as other pressures can grow. A befriending volunteer can bridge the gaps in the support system to provide valued companionship and reduce the isolation and the two-way street of volunteering increases the volunteers own social interactions.
The study found loneliness was significantly higher in those who become widowed compared to those who stay continuously married. However, starting to volunteer two or more hours per week resulted in decreased loneliness, with levels of loneliness similar to those of continuously married individuals volunteering at the same intensity. The findings suggest about 2 hours per week volunteering as a potential intervention for alleviating loneliness in older adults who have recently become widowed, you can read more from the study by clicking here.
To find befriending opportunities in your area take a look by clicking here.