Senior Health: The Power of Volunteering

Dr. Wesley Ryd retired from 42 years of family practice in 1999. Three days later, he began volunteering as the camp doctor at Silver Birch Ranch in Wisconsin. He and his wife, Lois, who volunteers in the camp office, now make the 300-mile trek each summer from The Holmstad, a Covenant Retirement Community in Batavia, Illinois, to help at the Christian camp for children and families. Since then, he has added camp cook to his list of duties.

Dr. Wesley Ryd volunteers in the office of a Christian camp and also serves as its cook.

Dr. Wesley Ryd volunteers in the office of a Christian camp and also serves as its cook.

“The time I get to spend with the kids, and the teenage-wranglers (counselors) is the most important part of each summer,” he explains. “We have a lot of fun while we do a lot of work. At the end of each summer I am tired, but also very fulfilled knowing that I made a difference.”

Over the years, Ryd has also completed 21 mission trips, including medical mission trips to Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Uganda. Twenty of them were after he retired. He also led two construction-related trips from his church to Honduras.

He adds, “I highly recommend volunteering immediately after retirement and to continue as long as you are able.”

Dr. Ryd is but one of numerous CRC residents who love to volunteer their time. CRC is home to more than 5,000 seniors, Last year, the 12 communities combined logged more than 100,000 volunteer hours.

Covenant Retirement Communities’ commitment to helping others do God’s work was a catalyst for developing the Covenant Passport program, which eases the financial responsibility for residents who wish to continue their philanthropic activities after they move to CRC. We waive residents’ monthly service fee while they volunteer off campus for a non-profit organization.

Bob Poor, a resident of the Covenant Village of Northbrook, Illinois, used the Covenant Passport program to travel to Taipei, Taiwan, to teach English. Poor said he appreciated the opportunities afforded him through the program and the Evangelical Covenant Church. “Throughout my whole life the church has supported me, made me who I am. Now I’m at a point in my life where I want to give back to others what was so freely given to me.”

High school students work with Covenant Shores residents to Covenant Shores residents and local students assemble blankets from repurposed, donated material. The blankets were used to comfort kittens when they leave the Seattle Humane Society for their new adoptive homes.

High school students work with Covenant Shores residents to assemble blankets from repurposed, donated material. The blankets were used to comfort kittens when they leave the Seattle Humane Society for their new adoptive homes.

Many volunteer activities are closer to home. They include sewing stuffed teddy bears for children, making sandwiches for the homeless, and repurposing donated material to make blankets used to comfort kittens when they leave the Seattle Humane Society for their new adoptive homes.

At The Samarkand in Santa Barbara, dozens of residents recently volunteered to participate in a two-part service leadership project with the local high school. They were happy to share their wisdom and history with teens who were eager to learn and make a difference with their own lives.

Our residents tell us that volunteering fills them with joy, that they experience a greater sense of purpose and feel better overall. Science agrees.

For seniors, in particular, studies show that volunteering provides:

  • Physical benefits – The same study suggests those who volunteer experience a decline in chronic conditions. For example, people who volunteered after a heart attack were less likely to experience the familiar post-illness effects of depression and despair.
  • Emotional benefits – Volunteers makes you feel good by building empathy, strengthening social bonds, helping you feel productive.
  • More time – Giving your time to others can make you feel more “time affluent,” wrote a Wharton professor in the Harvard Business Review. Feeling busy? Volunteer more!
  • Shared wisdom – Like the residents at The Samarkand, sharing one’s life experiences and professional training with others is good for them, and for you.
  • Renewed spiritual purpose – Volunteering provides meaning and can offer a fresh perspective of God’s plan for your life.

 

SB News Press_Across the GenerationsOne of the joys I find in working at a faith-based organization like CRC is that the people who work and live here are cut from the same spiritual cloth. We’re a community of servers, living by Peter’s words, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  (1 Peter 4:10)

“I wake up every day and talk to God about his direction for me that day,” says Kally Klose of The Holmstad. The 91-year-old retired nurse volunteers with Wayside Cross, a vibrant Bible-based, Christ-centered organization focused on transforming lives of men, women, youth and children in the greater Chicagoland area.

The need for volunteers is great, both in our backyards and across our borders. To volunteer internationally, learn more about the Evangelical Covenant Church mission opportunities.To find local opportunities, visit VolunteerMatch.

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About the Author

Terri Cunliffe

Terri Cunliffe is president and CEO of Covenant Retirement Communities, the nation’s fifth largest not-for-profit senior services provider. It is a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and serves more than 5,000 seniors in 15 continuing care retirement communities in 10 states. Visit Covenant Retirement Communities to learn more. Cunliffe writes monthly on seniors and health for the Covenant Companion online.

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2 Comments

  1. What a beautiful and meaningful article! A fulfilled life here on this earth is a life of service to one another! Thank you for reminding us of this important and very tangible information!

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