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April Blog Post

12 Apr 2024 9:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

I Volunteer because

Canadian volunteers contributed approximately 2.5 billion hours in 2018. Without this contribution, most charities and non-profits would not be able to offer their services.  (Volunteer Work Statistics in Canada)
But volunteering also has many benefits for the volunteer. Read more about the health and personal benefits shared by some members of CALL.

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” — Audrey Hepburn

Who Volunteers?

In 2018 a total of 24 million Canadians shared their time and skills for free. Which age group do you think was most likely to take part in volunteering? It might surprise you that iGens, (the Internet Generation), those born between 1996 and 2012 comprised the largest percentage of individuals engaged in volunteering.

What are the Health Benefits of Volunteering?

Research reported by Mayo Clinic Health System shows that volunteering, whether a big or small commitment, has health benefits, especially for older adults.

Volunteering can improve physical and mental health. Specifically, spending time in the service of others can lead to a sense of meaning and appreciation. Engaging in volunteer activities can release dopamine, a brain hormone, resulting in feelings of reduced stress and relaxation.

Perhaps surprisingly,

"people who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health."

Helping People, Changing Lives: 3 Health Benefits of Volunteering

Being involved in volunteer activities can increase social interactions. People can nurture new or strengthen existing relationships. Some experts have concluded that the health benefits of social relationships may be as important as avoiding health risks such as smoking, physical inactivity and high blood pressure.

Many studies have shown the health benefits of volunteering such as reduced stress-related illnesses, an enhanced sense of self-worth, and the prevention of social isolation. Volunteering can encourage feelings of individual usefulness, self-worth and social inclusion.

The National Seniors Council. (2010). Report on the National Seniors Council on Volunteering Among Seniors and Positive and Active Aging. HRSDC.

Why Volunteer?

Age plays a role in determining why people volunteer. However, a common reason expressed across age groups is the desire to contribute to their community.

As people enter into retirement or transition in their lifecycle, many seek new options to engage in their communities and to maintain, grow or develop new skills. Volunteering is increasingly espoused as a retirement planning option, for it provides people with opportunities to stay active, learn, share and leave a legacy for future generations.

Transitions, Milestones, and Legacies. Volunteering and Retirement Planning

I asked three members of Calgary Association of Lifelong Learners why they volunteer for various activities with CALL. Mary Lou Kerr, Jim Conway, and Barry Ronellenfitch shared their experiences.

Mary Lou Kerr has been a CALL member since its inception. She said:

"I quickly realized this was a learning organization that I wished to see flourish, grow and 'be there’ for me as I move through this interesting stage of life. As well, I want CALL to continue to provide a range of learning opportunities for those retired folk coming behind me. That meant I needed to volunteer in ways that added value to CALL and gave additional meaning to my life."

What benefits have you experienced by volunteering with CALL?

Through volunteering with CALL I’ve:

  • extended my friendship base
  • enriched my life through meeting interesting people with different backgrounds, work experience, education and life experiences
  • been able to continue using the skills I have developed over the decades as well as learning new skills through working collaboratively with others
  • kept my brain active through problem solving, actively using my short and long term memory, maintaining my social skills and by stepping outside my comfort level
  • engaged in meaningful volunteer work which allows me to focus on others while minimizing thinking about my own aches and pains or worrying about events that may never happen.

Jim Conway, a retired lawyer, agreed to discuss why he was willing to offer a monthly interest group, Not-So-Common Law. In his presentations, Jim explores the historical and social background of some of the intriguing, interesting and important legal cases which have had a lasting impact on our society and affect our lives today. He clearly enjoys the opportunity to discuss legal current affairs as he focuses each month on some famous and fascinating cases.

What are the benefits and positive outcomes for you in giving your time to CALL?

"I enjoy the research and creative aspects of putting together a monthly presentation for our interest group. From a retirement point of view, it is an opportunity to participate in an engaging activity and keep up my interest in law.

I enjoyed presenting Not-So-Common Law so much that it was easy to persuade me to facilitate a second interest group. This time it is politics. So, the political book club How Can You Think That?  was born."

Barry Ronellenfitch, is a Professional Engineer with over 45 years of experience with Yogic practices, and over 1,000 hours of formal training on meditation.

Barry leads the program Finding Peace and Joy Within. In this eight-week session, Barry explores the ideas behind the practices of meditation and mindfulness, and the modern understandings about how and why they work on both your inner and outer world.

What has it meant to you to volunteer as a facilitator?

"I’ve always enjoyed learning. Even the dullest job seemed interesting while I was learning how to do it. And I’ve always wanted to share anything that I found useful, whether it was a new hobby or sport, or an approach to solving a problem.

CALL allows me to both learn and share. By facilitating a CALL program, I can share what I’ve learned with other interested people. At the same time, their questions and insights help me learn more.

I get to meet wonderful people as well. For me, this is a win/win on every level!"

What Type of Volunteer are You?

What is important to you when you look for opportunities to volunteer? Do you think about what skills you have to offer others? What benefits are most meaningful to you?

Which of the following descriptions best applies to you?

(Source: Transitions, Milestones and Legacies. Volunteering and Retirement Planning)

  • Groupie You thrive on the camaraderie of a group and like to have fun and get results.
  • Juggler You’re a dynamo who enjoys giving your time to a variety of organizations.
  • Rookie You’re cautious but you’ve started to think it's time to give back.
  • Type A You’re a multi-tasking leader who says yes often and means it.
  • Roving Consultant You’re incredibly focussed and want to volunteer your specialized skills.
  • Cameo Appearance You have an unpredictable lifestyle and cannot be a regular.

Try Micro-Volunteering

If you want to volunteer but are concerned about the time commitment, consider micro-volunteering.

What is micro-volunteering? Basically, it is a short-term low-commitment volunteer opportunity; one that provides episodic and accessible options for the volunteer. It is sometimes described as:

"The JOY without the commitment."

Volunteer Canada says “definitions vary on the specifics of micro-volunteering, but all centre around a few key aspects:

  • A short time commitment
  • Quick projects
  • Primarily done on one’s own (contributing pieces to a larger project)

Examples of Micro-Volunteering

There are many easy ways that you can be a micro-volunteer to help to support a charity or non-profit:

  • Read and share their newsletter - you will help to spread the word.
  • Follow them on social media: engage with like/share/comments. You will help them to promote their work/service.
  • Help at events: meet/greet audience; set-up and clear-up; serve coffee; assist with registration.
  • Tell a friend; most people learn about community organizations through word-of-mouth.
  • Participate when asked on surveys.
  • Donate your skills for a short task.
Where to find Opportunities to Volunteer  

If you live in or near Calgary, check out these potential opportunities.

Volunteer with the City of Calgary

Volunteer Connector -- where you can find unique volunteer opportunities by a specific cause or an activity.

The 13 Best Volunteering Initiatives in Calgary

Volunteer with CALL

CALL is unique because it is 100% volunteer-led. Like Mary Lou you could volunteer to help CALL thrive and thus serve more individuals who are seeking lifelong learning opportunities. Like Jim and Barry, you could volunteer to offer an interest group based on your skills and share your passion with others.

If you are wondering how you might volunteer for CALL

Contact the Volunteer Committee to explore the possibilities:

Let's Celebrate Volunteers

National Volunteer Week in Canada


Maureen Osis retired from her career - first as a Gerontological Nurse and then a Marriage/Family Therapist in private practice working with mid-life and older adults. Maureen has published numerous articles and books, related to her professions. She is a member of CALL because she is passionate about learning. She is a volunteer with CALL, doing social media and the primary author of the blog, because she likes to face new challenges.

Learn more about membership in CALL.

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